Today is the day that the proposal to allow for the sale of wine in grocery stores comes before the Tennessee Senate State and Local Government Committee. Those who oppose the measure, such as the Chairman of the very committee in which the the bill will be heard in the Senate, are echoing the same tired old refrain that it will “hurt local business,” or namely that Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman) has some liquor store owners in his district who are afraid of competition and the free market, because having to compete with grocery stores might mean that they would have to lower their prices and compete.
Liquor stores in Tennessee currently have an absolute monopoly on the sale of wine in this State, which means that they can price it however high they please since there is no competition. Because that structure is presently supported in law, the liquor stores presently have a State-supported monopoly, and in the past when Democrats controlled the General Assembly, a free market option for the sale of wine has been defeated in large part because of liquor lobbyists who represent-who would’ve guessed-the liquor store owners.
The Republican leadership in both Houses supports ending the liquor store monopoly on wine sales, but that may not be enough to get the bill through the committee process because of the pressure from the liquor lobby. Rather than support traditional conservative ideas about the free market and consumer choice, Senator Yager would apparently rather curry favor with package store owners and the liquor lobby than all of the consumers of this State by giving them free market solutions. If this proposal is defeated, it will mean that the Senate State and Local Government Committee, composed of a clear Republican majority, will adopt the Democratic position on this issue-namely that the monopoly on sale of wine in Tennessee should be the State’s standing policy.