photo courtesy of Mark Humphrey/AP (well, it's not really "courtesy" of Mark, I ripped it from a newspaper article without his permission...)
If you live in a state where wine is sold alongside beer and crackers at your local Kroger or Publix supermarket, you probably don't think twice about seeing chardonnays on display at the same store that sells laundry detergent and light bulbs. But if you reside in the great state of Tennessee, you never see those items for sale at the same location.
In fact, while you can purchase beer at our groceries, wine and liquor are restricted to liquor stores that aren't allowed to sell anything BUT wine and liquor. No mixers, no corkscrews, no chips, cheeses, or crackers. Not only that, but our archaic laws prevent one individual from owning more than one liquor store within the state's borders.
The liquor lobby in Tennessee is almost as powerful (and fearsome) as the gun lobby. In fact, getting these silly shit rules changed in Tennessee always ends up in failure, while absolutely insane laws involving handguns almost always sail through our General Assembly like cheap wine through a teenager on a Friday night.
But recent polls and surveys show a vast majority of Volunteer State residents want these restrictions changed, and there have been some indications that a bill to that effect might even make it out of committee at Legislative Plaza in Nashville.
Or at least, there was hope.
Yep, hope took a backseat in a squad car yesterday when seventeen police officers, chiefs of police, and sheriffs, many in uniform, stopped by for a press conference at the Legislative Plaza to urge lawmakers to leave the state's liquor laws as they currently stand: stupid.
According to an article in this morning's The Tennessean, (motto: "Featuring photos of teen music icons instead of hard news, because we know what you people really want!") a group calling themselves Tennessee Law Enforcement for Strong Alcohol Laws (or TLEFSAL... catchy, isn't it?) insists that allowing wine to be sold at grocery stores would result in binge drinking and divert police resources.
Knoxville's Police Chief David Rausch spoke at the news conference, and as proof that such changes to the law would certainly lead to binge behavior among young people, he cited an incident in which a University of Tennessee fraternity member was hospitalized after ingesting a box of cheap wine through a hose and funnel inserted into his rectum. Nevermind that the kid in question purchased his grape enema at a liquor store and NOT at an area Kroger... (don't confuse the issue with facts!)
(Here's a news flash for the men in blue: kids are going to binge drink whether you sell wine at Kroger or not. And for the record, I've never seen anyone at a liquor store in Tennessee ask for an ID card, but I have to produce one every time I buy a twelve pack of beer at the grocery store.)
No, if we're honest we'll admit that this is about keeping the good ol' boy network of liquor lobbyists happy in Nashville. They fear open competition with supermarkets for wine sales, because they know huge chain stores like Kroger, Publix, Food Lion, and Walmart will be able to offer lower prices for consumers of wine than they currently offer at their monopolistic liquor stores. Those liquor store owners are issuing dire warnings about layoffs and reduced hours for their employees if such legislation is allowed to pass, ignoring the fact that increased hours and hiring at thousands of grocery stores would more than make up for any losses on their part...
Not only that, but sales of wines at grocery stores would almost certainly result in higher alcohol tax revenues for this revenue starved state. It's a fact that a lot of area soccer moms who would never be caught dead in a liquor store might be willing to pick up a bottle of wine if it were available when they shop for groceries.
And here's another thing to keep in mind, if you're scoring this at home: our lawmakers receive millions of dollars in campaign donations from the liquor lobby. They are wined and dined at some of Nashville's finest restaurants every legislative session by people who are oh-so-concerned about the welfare of little Jimmy and his friends getting their hands on grocery store hooch... and they want to make sure our distinguished public servants stay on top of this threat to our children.
These are the same legislators who will propose laws allowing Jimmy's feeble old algebra teacher to pack a Glock under her support hose this fall, too. Because it's all about the kids.