Wine and Tom Wark’s Failure at Predicting Elections

TomYesterday in Tennessee 78 different counties and municipalities voted to determine if wine should be sold in the same stores where food is sold. The proposal to put wine in grocery stores won in all 78 counties.

I have to admit that I was wrong about this move to use the ballot box to finally put wine in grocery stores in Tennessee. I predicted that 80% of these wine-in-grocery-store ballot questions would succeed. It turned out to be 100%.

Here then is what we can say. At least in Tennessee, somewhere near the buckle (or at least the first hole) in the Bible Belt, consumers overwhelmingly believe the convenience of being able to buy wine when they buy pork, cheese and potatoes is more important than the possibility that minors will turn into raging alcoholics at the sight of wine on grocery store shelves.

One wonders if the pro-grocery store wine contingent in the great state of New York will look at this outcome and ask themselves, ought we give the ballot box a try. For years now, consumers wanting to buy wine in grocery stores in New York and the grocery stores that want to sell it to them have been thwarted by a contingent of liquor store owners who oppose this convenience.

Here’s the bad news, however, for Tennessee. Despite the overwhelming vote in favor of wine in grocery stores, the bottles actually won’t show up on the shelves until July 2016 at  the earliest.

Still…Well Done Tennessee!!


12 Responses

  1. Charlie Olken - November 5, 2014

    Tom, thanks for giving me something to smile about today. Maybe I should stick to baseball instead of politics. I seem to do better there.

  2. Thomas Pellechia - November 5, 2014


    Generally, you are correct about NY, but don’t limit your target to liquor store owners. Beer would have to share shelf space with wine in grocery stores, and that is not a good pairing for the beer lobby. Also, some major grocery chains are not exactly happy over the idea that liquor stores might sell food.

    It’s more complicated than just the liquor lobby problem.

  3. Bill Mciver - November 5, 2014

    Tom, great job!

  4. Scott - November 5, 2014

    Pork, cheese, and potatoes? Sometimes we buy broccoli and fruit at the grocery store, too.

  5. Jeff Kralik - November 5, 2014

    Sigh. While I am happy for the fine people of Tennessee (at least eventually), it appears Pennsylvania will remain mired in Prohibition-era legislation for the foreseeable future….

  6. Tom Wark - November 5, 2014


    What is this “broccoli” thing of which you speak?

  7. Kip Summers - November 6, 2014

    Tom, as a TN winemaker and consumer, I was just as surprised as you that every single municipality that had placed this on the ballot passed. I think most Tennesseeans were a bit shocked at the overwhelming % votes in favor of it. It didn’t just pass by 51%, many places passed the measure by at least 70% and TN’s affluent zipcodes voted closer to 80% in favor.

    Key TN legislators were smart to put issue back on the people, because conservative rural county leaders claimed their constituents didn’t want wine in their grocery stores.

    Still, the law as passed is a mess – and its supporters knew that, hoping that if the voters said yes, they would have a public mandate that would encourage them to go back and make significant changes to the law. One of these changes will probably include moving up the inception date to next summer.

    My favorite headline from Tuesday night’s election returns was “Wine is winning everywhere in TN”. Nothing like positive press for wine in a Bible Belt state!

    • Thomas Pellechia - November 6, 2014

      Ha! Political hacks often use initiative wording to get people to vote against something by voting for it. I wonder how many times voters have been shocked to discover that the initiative they thought they approved didn’t quite turn out that way.

      I know that in NY, initiatives usually turn out to be scams.

  8. Fredric Koeppel - November 7, 2014

    One of the provisions of the law in Tennessee is that grocery stores, convenience stores and so on have to mark their wine up at least 20 percent over wholesale, so they don’t undercut the liquor stores. Isn’t this a violation of the commerce clause or equal protection or something? So far it has not been challenged.

  9. Tom Wark - November 7, 2014


    I don’t think a minimum markup would violate the provision of the Commerce Clause. The 21st Amendment gives the state wide latitude in erecting any number of regulations concerning alcohol. However, when a regulation treats an instate seller differently from an out of state seller, that’s when you get into trouble. The Minimum markup would only apply to instate sellers.

  10. Scott - November 7, 2014

    Fredric, according to the current director of the ABC of Tennessee, 20% is deemed to be the minimum cost of doing business at a retail establishment of any kind when all overhead is taken into consideration. So, they have determined that 20% markup is the minimum required to avoid selling below cost when all actual costs considered. You can read plenty about the problems caused when grocery chains use alcohol as a loss-leader item to drive foot traffic if you look into the situation in Great Britain.

  11. Thomas Pellechia - November 8, 2014

    Minimum markup laws in other states have been successfully challenged based on state constitutions that prohibit such laws.

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