The Kentucky Food with Wine Coalition announced Tuesday that more than 100 supermarkets around the state will hold a petition drive to gauge support for allowing them to sell wine.
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Group pushing for wine sales in groceries Petition drive designed as show of support
Owen Covington Messenger-Inquirer
Published: December 17, 2008
The Kentucky Food with Wine Coalition announced Tuesday that more than 100 supermarkets around the state will hold a petition drive to gauge support for allowing them to sell wine. Coalition spokesman Luke Schmidt said the drive will help the group’s push to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets. Kentucky is one of 16 states that does not allow wine sales in grocery stores.
“Ultimately what we want to be able to do is to demonstrate that consumers across the state want to see this law change,” Schmidt said.
Shoppers in Owensboro are already weighing in.
The city’s three IGA stores owned by Houchens Industries of Bowling Green offered customers a chance to sign a petition Friday and Saturday, and the three Kroger stores will be asking customers to sign the petition through the end of the month.
The effort prompted a rebuke from the Kentucky Liquor Retailer Coalition, with lobbyist Karen Lentz saying that a change in the law would create an unfair advantage for grocery stores.
“It’s the fact that they can already do this, as long as they comply with the current rules that are set out for anybody who sells wine,” Lentz said. “This is a heavily regulated product that should remain heavily regulated.”
The Food with Wine Coalition is pitching the change in the law as a way to boost sales of wine in general and Kentucky wine specifically, to provide more convenience for grocery shoppers and to join the 34 states that already allow wine sales in grocery stores.
Helping support the wine industry is also a benefit to agriculture in Kentucky, which is moving away from traditional products like tobacco and into grape and wine production, the coalition argues.
“It’s early, but my understanding is that it’s been very positively received by shoppers,” Schmidt said.
Rep. Larry Clark, a Louisville Democrat, filed a bill this year to allow for the expansion of wine sales to grocery stores, but that bill was sent to the House Licensing and Occupations Committee and didn’t receive a hearing.
Schmidt said the coalition, which is a not-for-profit organization of grocery stores formed in 2007, is still working on a piece of legislation and finding a lawmaker to carry it, but those details should come soon.
“It’s still a little bit early to speculate on that, but our intent is absolutely to bring a bill in the legislature, probably in January or February,” Schmidt said.
If Kentucky changes its law regarding the sale of wine in grocery stores, it would be one of the few successful pushes in the country in decades.
Lentz said the last time a state changed its laws regarding wine sales in certain businesses was 23 years ago, and most laws in the area date to the end of Prohibition.
At least 40 grocery stores in Kentucky already sell liquor, but they, like liquor stores, must comply with regulations such as having the liquor and wine section accessible only through its own entrance and only to people 21 or older, Lentz said.
The legislative change would allow grocery stores fewer regulations over selling wine than liquor stores, such as the age of the salesperson, Lentz said.
The state doesn’t let liquor retailers employ cashiers younger than 20 years old, while grocery stores don’t have that limit, Lentz said.
“This is not about convenience,” Lentz said. “This is about public policy for a heavily regulated product. … Package stores are experts in selling alcohol.”