Lakesite, Red Bank to vote on wine in grocery stores

All area petitions must be submitted by Aug. 21

Lakesite and Red Bank have collected the required number of valid signatures on local petitions to put the sale of wine in retail food stores on the upcoming November ballots.

“I think the state did the right thing in allowing the municipalities all over the state to get enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot,” said Red Bank Mayor John Roberts. “It’s putting power back into the hands of the citizens.”

Publix spokeswoman Brenda Reid said having the ability to sell wine in area Publix stores will be a win-win for the store and its customers. Though there is not a Publix in Red Bank or Lakesite, there are stores nearby in both Hixson and North Chattanooga, where some residents are also petitioning to have wine sold.

“It is a customer convenience to have the wine in our stores, and it’s something they’re accustomed to buying in other markets,” she said, adding that all Publix stores located in areas that permit the sale of wine in food retail stores do sell wine. “It gives customers the opportunity to save a trip, and it’s a revenue generator for us.”

Travis Denham, manager of Lakesite Wine and Spirits, said having wine available in grocery stores may have negative consequences as well.

“It might be a little more convenient, but they’re going to pay more for it,” he said, adding that prices will likely go up $3-$4 a bottle both in liquor and grocery stores. “It’s what the majority wants, so we’ll try to keep our prices as low as possible.”

He said he still expects to be able to sell wine for less than what it will be available for in grocery stores, which will be less likely to purchase and store wine in large quantities.

Efforts to get the issue on the ballot continue in other North Hamilton County localities, including Chattanooga and Soddy-Daisy.

To get the wine referendum on the ballot, eligible communities — those that already allow liquor-by-the-drink, liquor stores or both — must submit local petitions to the Hamilton County Election Commission with at least as many signatures as would equal 10 percent of their residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election.

The petitions must be completed and shared with the local election commission by Thursday, Aug. 21.