Kentucky has a litany of laws regulating how alcohol is sold and consumed, as it should. It’s right for the state to bar people from carrying loaded firearms in establishments where liquor is sold by the drink.
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Wine sales expansion benefits Kentucky
Published: September 23, 2009
Kentucky has a litany of laws regulating how alcohol is sold and consumed, as it should. It’s right for the state to bar people from carrying loaded firearms in establishments where liquor is sold by the drink. And a 1942 law that prohibits retailers from selling booze to someone known to the courts as not providing for his family is obscure, but logical.
But other provisions of Kentucky’s alcohol laws make less sense, including restrictions that have essentially blocked grocery storesfrom selling wine for decades. Kentucky is missing out on a potential source of new revenue, and wine consumers are unnecessarily inconvenienced and restricted in their choices.
For a third year, an advocacy group created by Kentucky’s grocery store industry is pushing for those restrictions to be dropped when the legislature reconvenes in January. The Food With Wine Coalition, which is supported by the state’s wine industry, is hoping Kentucky will become the 35th state to allow wine sales at grocery stores.
It’s a change that’s overdue for Kentucky. Wine is now lumped in with hard liquor in terms of sales restrictions despite the fact it is closer in potency to malt beverages, which grocery stores are allowed to sell. Wine sales are restricted to liquor stores or to portions of a store that are accessible only by those 21 or older.
The state is placing an unnecessary inconvenience on consumers looking to purchase a bottle of wine. Since wine is a beverage that is often paired with food, it’s naturally a product food retailers should be able to offer. The state already places requirements upon grocery clerks to help ensure beer isn’t sold to minors that would extend to wine sales and ease concerns about illegal sales.
The main opposition to this move is from liquor retailers, who have enjoyed a veritable monopoly on wine sales under state law. But allowing grocery store wine sales will have a net increase on the amount of wine sold in Kentucky instead of merely dividingwine sales between the two types of retailers.
Removing that monopoly will impact wine sales at liquor stores, but isn’t likely to drive these stores out of business. Other states that allow wine sales at grocery stores also have liquor stores in abundance. Liquor stores will need to become more competitive, but won’t be trampled by grocery stores entering the market.
The Kroger grocery chain has told the coalition that wine is the most requested item that they don’t stock in their stores, which further indicates an untapped market. Making it more readily available will drive up sales and allow additional opportunities forKentucky’s growing wine industry.
Changes in Kentucky’s alcohol tax this year will mean additional revenues for the state as wine sales expand. The Food With WineCoalition estimates that wine sales will increase by 50 percent by 2012 and generate an additional $84 million in tax revenue for the state.
It’s time for the state to step out of the way and give wine consumers and grocery retailers more options.
Unlike a fine wine, these restrictions don’t grow better with age.