A Kentucky grocers group has launched a petition drive as it seeks to change a state law so wine could be sold in grocery stores, a change some liquor retailers say is a bad idea.
Currently, in Kentucky counties where alcohol sales are allowed, beer but not wine or spirits can be sold in grocery stores.
The Food with Wine Coalition will conduct the petition drive in 111 stores in 28 counties and on its Web site, www.foodwithwine.org/allowingwine.htm.
The Food with Wine Coalition is a not-for-profit organization established in 2007. Grocers involved in the petition drive include Kroger, Slone's Signature Markets and IGA.
A bill to change the law died in committee during the most recent legislative session.
The coalition contends that allowing wine sales in groceries would benefit consumers, who they say want the option of buying wine for their meals, and Kentucky's burgeoning wine industry. The group contends that such a change also would mean more tax revenue for the state.
"Consumers have been asking grocery store managers across Kentucky for the opportunity to purchase a bottle of wine to go with their meal. The coalition's effort is in direct response to what our customers have been asking for," said Luke Schmidt, a Louisville-based consultant retained by the Food with Wine Coalition.
Roger Leasor, president of Liquor Barn, a large liquor and wine retailer with stores in Louisville and Lexington, says one potential problem is grocery stores using employees who are minors to run the checkout counters.
"It should be adults selling it," he said.
Grocery stores already can get a license to sell wine and liquor if they provide a separate entrance to that part of the store, where minors are not allowed to work. A store employee of legal age also is required on beer sales.
Danny Meyer of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Kentucky said that group is officially neutral on the potential change.
Earlier this year, Liquor Barn tried to stop stocking wines from Kentucky vineyards that supported a change in the law.
Leasor later reversed his position, saying he didn't want to "fight with my neighbors."
He said the change proposed by the coalition really isn't about Kentucky wineries. "They want to make it about Kentucky wine, but it is not."