Why It’s Worth Waiting on Our Wine


February 22, 2016 8:38AM

Imagine you’re a retailer selling a popular product in a store on Main Street. As you become more successful, you decide to open a second store, then a third. But all of a sudden the government told you that you couldn’t open that third store. Your limit was two.

When it comes to liquor laws in Tennessee, this is no hypothetical. For years, there was an arbitrary cap on the number of liquor stores someone could own. Fortunately for freedom and free enterprise, that all changed with the wine in grocery stores legislation that passed in 2014. Along with finally allowing grocery stores to sell wine, the new law shelved the antiquated limit on how many liquor stores someone could own. While an imperfect law, the free market finally trumped cronyism. Alas, freedom didn’t ring for long.

As grocery stores prepare to begin selling wine on July 1 of this year, they realized that the law passed in 2014 does not permit them to stock the wine prior to that date. To correct this oversight, lawmakers are currently debating a tweak to allow pre-stocking of wine before it hits the shelves in a few months.

But like any good crony, the liquor lobby couldn’t resist this unique opportunity to harken back to the olden days. A provision has been included in the date fix bill that would reinstate the limit on the number of retail outlets a liquor store owner could open. If it passes, each person would be limited to two stores, and no more.

Restoring the liquor store limit in an unrelated bill to fix a minor issue is tantamount to a hostage taking. The message from the liquor lobby is simple: If consumers want their wine on time, they better allow the government to trample on the rights of business owners. But if lawmakers refuse to ditch the store ownership limit, then it’s better for consumers to wait a few more weeks for their wine, rather than accept a return to the days where cronyism flourished on Capitol Hill. Wine tastes better with age anyway.