I recently spoke with Gail Kerr about the inconvenience of having to go to a different store to buy wine rather than being able to buy it when and where I buy my food. Here are my unabridged thoughts on the subject.
Why are you a supporter of Red, White and Food?
RWF was established to give a voice to the consumer. In recent years, similar grass-roots campaigns have proven to be vital change agents, and I don’t think it’s any secret that change is needed—and overdue—here in Tennessee. Many of our residents have relocated here from other states and are surprised, bemused, and eventually annoyed that they can’t buy a bottle of wine along with other dinner ingredients in their local grocery store. Even those of us who haven’t lived in areas that allow for this have traveled enough to be able to appreciate the convenience of such “luxury.” In addition, we are able to witness in these other communities how grocery stores and specialty liquor stores somehow manage to peacefully coexist. Red, White & Food allows members of the general public to communicate their ideas to legislators just as loudly and insistently as the liquor lobby has over the years. At the end of the day, informed dialogue is always useful.
Do you find it especially inconvenient this time of year to have to make an extra stop for your holiday dinners and festivities?
Like most consumers of any product, I enjoy having options. If I want a special bottle of wine for a gift or to pair with a particular course, I have favorite wine retailers upon whom I can rely for wide selections and/or recommendations. On the other hand, sometimes I just need something with which to make spaghetti sauce or sangria. It doesn’t need to be anything special and, if I lived in another state, I could grab a $9 bottle on the next aisle at Kroger or Publix. It’s always a hassle to get in the car and drive to another location. It wastes time and gas and adds extra stress to the everyday running of errands.
But here we are at the holidays, when everything is more stressful. We have less time, less disposable income, and we encounter bigger crowds in shopping centers. The inconvenience factor has now increased exponentially. I’m something of a procrastinator, so I this year left my Thanksgiving shopping for that Wednesday before. Of course the stores were mobbed, but getting to and from a liquor store near my office added an extra hour to my commute, not counting time spent looking for parking, waiting in line, etc. That’s an hour I would prefer to have spent at home with my family, obviously.
The other reason multiple stops create a major inconvenience for me is because I have a newborn. It’s something of a production whenever he accompanies me on errands, not to mention that I want to minimize his exposure to lots of people when we’re right in the thick of flu and RSV season. Going to the store for essentials has turned into more of a complex process, as any new parent would attest, and these days I critically evaluate whether an extra stop is really worth it. Many times I now skip that extra stop. So if the prevailing wisdom of liquor store owners is that grocery stores being able to sell wine would result in a huge drop in their business, well, they’re already seeing a decrease from me by default.
I am grateful that I can have wine shipped to my home now if I want—though I’d much prefer my dollars stay close to home.
The organization is going to try a different tactic with this coming legislature. Instead of changing state law, they are going to seek legislation that would allow cities and counties to hold referendums on wine in grocery stores. Is that something you would vote for?
What’s positive about going the route of local referendums as opposed to wholesale change in state laws is that it gives a community a choice in the matter and protects its politicians from having to make decisions that, while appeasing their constituents, are potentially unpopular with some of their largest campaign contributors. While the state laws governing beer, liquor, and accoutrements are archaic and in desperate need of overhaul for the benefit of consumers AND proprietors, this tactic may very well be a good compromise. Of course, this would have no effect on communities that don’t already have liquor stores, but it could really benefit those that do, particularly rural areas where residents have to drive further to have access to any kind of retail.
Yes, this is a measure I would vote for. My town inexplicably decided all liquor stores should be required to sit within a certain number of feet from Main Street. My closest grocery store is roughly two-and-a-half miles from Main Street, so if such a referendum were to pass there, it would certainly help local businesses and their customers. On a larger scale, it would enhance the desirability of these communities for development by retailers who currently choose not to do business there. (I’ve often said Trader Joe’s or Fresh Market would make a killing in that county.) Finally, such a move would bring pricing more in line with that of other states.
If I were able to wave a magic wand and right the wrongs of Prohibition-era laws, I would. Until Amazon is able to ship me that wand (tax-free still, right?), I’d settle for this.