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ELLIOTT FLAGGS — Looking for wine? Let’s give Mississippi convenience and choices

ELLIOTT G. FLAGGS

Did you know that 38 states currently allow the sale of wine in grocery stores? Unfortunately, Mississippi is not one of them because our alcohol laws are undoubtedly antiquated.

As the newly appointed chair of Looking for Wine?, a coalition of consumers and businesses building support for the passage of legislation to allow wine sales in grocery stores in currently wet counties and municipalities, I implore you to consider this advocacy issue from a business, economic development, consumer and tax revenue perspective.

Like all of our neighboring states, allowing wine sales in grocery stores would give consumers more choices on where to buy their wine and offer convenience to people who want to buy wine for dinner while they are shopping for groceries. This legislation also would increase state revenue through additional wine sales, while also reducing losses incurred from people driving across nearby state lines to shop for food and wine at the same store.

Specifically, here are more reasons why grocery store wine sales make sense:

  • 76% of U.S. states now allow grocery store wine sales, including all of our border states of Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas.
  • It will create an average of 800 to 1,000 new jobs in Mississippi, with an estimated economic impact of $18 million to $20 million in additional tax revenue.
  • This additional revenue can be used to address important funding needs, such as roads and bridges across the state or any additional costs the law change could create for Alcohol Beverage Control, the regulatory agency for alcohol distribution in Mississippi.
  • The United States economy is built on the concept of free-market competition, which benefits consumers and pushes business innovation. Few things improve customer service and product offerings more than fair competition. Providing convenience and choice for consumers is a key factor driving this initiative.
  • Grocery stores are already trained and prepared to strictly enforce the law when it comes to prohibiting alcohol sales to people under 21 because they are currently competently enforcing the law for beer sales.
  • Allowing grocery stores to sell wine will not run liquor stores out of business. Under the new law, retail package stores will still be the only place to buy distilled spirits and wines not sold in the grocery store. Many wine drinkers will prefer to continue going to their favorite liquor stores for wine, especially if they are looking for specialty wines or if wine is the only item they are shopping for. The claim about a negative impact on mom-and-pop (or independently owned) liquor stores was clearly debunked in Tennessee, where roughly 170 additional liquor store licenses have been granted since July 2017 when grocery stores there started selling wine.

Looking for Wine? needs a concerted, galvanized effort at the grassroots level to express to lawmakers that this is a nonpartisan issue that a majority of Mississippians over the age of twenty-one support that will simultaneously give thousands of consumers choice and convenience. More importantly, this legislation does not require any tax increase and will provide an additional source of state revenue. Lastly, this is common sense legislation that we encourage all of our state legislators to support during the 2020 Mississippi Legislative Session.

» Mississippi native Elliott Flaggs, vice president of Cornerstone Government Affairs’ Jackson office, is chair of the Looking for Wine coalition. For more information about the coalition and to join our efforts, visit lookingforwinems.com.

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