Roy Exum: The Whine Over Wine

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

It is beginning to look like the whine over Tennessee wine is finally over and that soon the state legislature will allow grocery stores across the state to sell wine in much the same way shoppers buy beer with their milk and soft drinks. But with the proposed bill comes a crummy caveat that to me is almost as bad as banning wine itself because it will hurt too many people.

It is no secret that the overwhelming majority of adults in Tennessee want wine in grocery stores. You can buy wine in a grocery store in 36 other states and in six of the eight states closest to Tennessee’s border. Not only is it a matter of convenience but when Tennessee grocers start selling wine, the tax revenues remain in the state. But if the proposed bill is passed like it is being written, the lobbyists want the legislators to prohibit the big-box stores from selling wine, which hampers a Walmart or Sam’s Club or, more specifically, a Costco.

Every day scores of Tennesseans drive down I-75 to Fort Oglethorpe and buy wine from Costco, along with buggy loads of everything else you can think of from groceries to dry goods. Costco is the No. 1 seller of wine in the world with sales over 1 billion dollars. The store is also the No. 1 seller of toilet paper (over 1 billion rolls a year of those, too.)

For the record, Costco has 64 million people who pay for a membership and who appreciate the fact Costco doesn’t mark up any item more than 15 percent. They don’t even advertise but, don’t worry, they had $93 billion in sales at more than 600 stores. If our state lawmakers make Costco, Sam’s, and Walmart play by different rules than our other grocery stores, they’ll be tempted to build stores in states other than Tennessee. That hurts the Tennessee consumer. It denies us a choice and it denies us a possible savings in our spendable dollar. That’s not right.

The logic a rural lawmaker uses is obvious; too many have seen the big-box stores open in a small town and quickly demolish the mom-and-pop shops with their corporate ability to buy merchandise and products cheaper than their competition. For years the cry has been grocery-store wine would kill small whiskey stores but in other states this simply hasn’t happened.

The new proposal will allow whiskey stores to start selling beer, soft drinks and tobacco products in a win-win situation for the owners and customers alike but to close out the big-box stores and the smaller convenience/gasoline quick-stops is not the right thing to do. Not only does it smack free enterprise in the face but – once again – people who buy wine by the case will cross the state’s border to ramp in the savings. When that happens, those tax dollars will be lost.

The legislature has wasted untold hours debating the wine question when it should have happened long ago. When President Obama came out and said he doesn’t think marijuana is any more harmful than alcohol it was a clear indication that the new playing field will be over legalized marijuana and, in Tennessee, there is a movement towards medicinal cannabis.

In the year ahead the state of Washington will legalize marijuana and several other states, such as California and Vermont, will put the question on November ballots. Right now 22 states, as well as the District of Columbia, have made medicinal marijuana legal and there is a bill in the Tennessee legislature that will draw a lot of attention this session. And just so you’ll know, in Florida there are already over a million signatures urging medicinal marijuana.

Marijuana is big business in Colorado where it is estimated that there will be $600 million in sales this year. Translated, that is $67 million in new taxes with the schools getting the first $20 million. A Gallup poll showed that 58 percent of Americans favor its use and, according to ArcView Market Research, the current market of $1.4 billion will increase to $2.4 billion by the end of 2014 and $10.2 billion within five years.

And you are worried that wine in supermarkets may affect a mom-and-pop whiskey store? Wake up and smell the smoke, baby! And quit worrying -- even the president says it's okay.

royexum@aol.com



Roy Exum: Why I Am Thankful

You would think that after 40 years of publishing an annual list of things for which I am thankful, I’d be getting to the bottom of it, but it seems the older I get I have found I appreciate so much more around me. I take absolute delight in planting a flower, feeding the birds and throwing a ball for my dog. I find that the more people who I come to know the more who I come to ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Thanksgiving Eve

I don’t know who was the first to do the Famous Pregnant Turkey prank but I’ll bet you a handful of giblets there will be a lot of copycats who try it today. The trick is finding a Cornish hen that is small enough to stuff inside the larger turkey. Then you skillfully pack the bird with some of that sausage-sage dressing and put your Thanksgiving dinner in the oven. When all ... (click for more)

$100,000 Powereball Winner In Greeneville

A Tennessee Lottery Powerball player in Greeneville woke up Thanksgiving morning a $100,000 winner.  The as-yet-unknown player matched 4 of 5 white balls drawn plus the Powerball in the Wednesday night drawing, which has a base prize of $50,000. Since he or she added the Power Play option for a dollar, the prize was multiplied by the Power Play number drawn, which was ... (click for more)

Hixson Burglary Suspect Tries To Swim Away; Deputies Catch Him In Borrowed Boat

A Hixson burglary suspect on Wednesday tried to swim away from deputies, but to no avail.   The proprietor of Chattanooga Fish and Fun was notified when his camera system was triggered by an individual attempting to break into his business. The owner immediately contacted the Sheriff's Office and drove to the business location.   As deputies arrived on scene, ... (click for more)

Rodney Stoker Wins Turkey Trot 8K Again

It has been about 15 years since Rodney Stoker captured first place overall in the annual Sports Barn Turkey Trot, but he’s been doing some serious training in recent weeks and it paid off Thursday morning as the 41-year-old former UTC standout was victorious with a time of 27 minutes, 18 seconds. Dylan Hassett, a promising 24-year-old from Atlanta who is making her way as a ... (click for more)

Bulldogs Face In-State Rival Georgia Tech Saturday At Noon

For the past four seasons, going up against Georgia Tech in the final regular-season game of the year has meant a date with quarterback Justin Thomas for the Georgia defense. But this time around, the Bulldogs will be seeing a new face on the other side of the line of scrimmage: junior Taquon Marshall. In studying this season’s tape, Smart still found himself surprised by ... (click for more)