The state representative who cast the key vote against the sale of wine in grocery stores says he's now willing to reconsider.
State representative Matthew Hill was criticized in March when he voted in favor of an earlier version of the bill in a subcommittee but changed his mind in the full committee. Hill said he voted against the legislation because house sponsors seemed unwilling to debate changes to the Senate bill. Thursday, Hill claimed he would consider reversing that vote next session if proponents committed to a full debate.
Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey said the wheels are in motion for the bill to finally pass.
"After the debacle in the house with the change of the vote at the last minute, I think that actually helped the cause," said Ramsey. "I think several senators had been sitting on the fence, and saw the reaction that came from that and realized, 'I'm going to be supportive this this year.' It's my understanding that the liquor store owners are sitting down trying to figure out what they could live with because they know it's going to pass."
According to David Seeley of West End Discount Liquors and Wines, liquor stores haven't considered a compromise.
"We think there's more to life than just convenience," said Seeley. "We recently had a retailers meeting with owners and managers of stores all over the state. It was a three hour meeting, and I did not get the impression from anyone at that meeting that any of us are willing to say this is a done deal or it's going to happen. It's a good system that's been working for many, many years, and we are concentrating on keeping that where it is."
Seeley said liquor stores have strongly opposed the sales of wine in grocery stores because of the threat it poses to local businesses.
"We do not want this to happen," said Seeley. "This is our livelihood. Corporations that have grocery stores can have centralized huge buying and get cheaper prices. They drive the smaller guys out of businesses."
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