Lobbyists Schmobbyists

wineaisleWinner of this month’s award for the most annoying statement by a Tennessee lobbyist: Chip Christianson, vice president of legislative affairs for the Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association, who had this to say in a Tennessean state legislature preview piece the other day on the matter of allowing wine sales in grocery stores:

“This is 100 percent pushed by the grocers. Polls, schmolls. There’s no groundswell of people trying to get this done.”

Multiple polls-schmolls have found that upwards of two-thirds of Tennesseans want this to happen, so Christianson’s view can be not-so-loosely translated as “up yours, consumers.” Look, I get it — the TWSRA represents liquor store owners, and the last thing they want to see is the competition and downward price pressure that will come with grocery store sales. (And there is empirical evidence that retail wine prices will drop with grocery store availability.)

It’s quite remarkable that a conservative state legislature continues to find it so difficult to make this happen. What principles are more bedrock conservative than letting the people have what they clearly want, by way of more rather than less market competition? House Speaker Beth Harwell sounds almost reasonable when she says “I believe it’s time for grocery stores to be allowed to sell wine — and I believe Tennesseans want that — but we want to do it in a way that creates an equal playing field for the mom-and-pop stores as well.” But where is her “equal playing field for mom-and-pop stores” vibe when big-box retailers are decimating the mom-and-pop economies of small towns and cities?

And by the way wine in grocery stores is hardly novel or adventurous. More than two-thirds of states allow this in one form or another, including such bastions of radical progressivism as Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Montana, and North and South Carolina.

A version of this post appears on the Nashville Scene‘s Pith in the Wind blog.

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