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NASHVILLE -- It is a major step in the fight to allow wine in grocery stores.
For the first time in six years the legislation has passed a committee, but it still has a long way to go.
Just like a fine wine, the issue has been shelved on Capitol Hill for years.
Now, with a single vote, a bill that could allow wine to be sold in grocery and convenience stores is finally advancing.
"This is a monumental step that this has never happened before. It has never moved out of committee, so we'll see where it goes," says Jarron Springer with the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association.
The bill cleared the Senate State and Local Government Committee by just one vote. The final tally was 5-4.
"I was counting on my fingers," admits Sen. Bill Ketron, (R) Murfreesboro.
Senate sponsor Bill Ketron says he didn't know if it would pass until the last minute. The deciding vote was cast by Sen. Reginald Tate, (D) Memphis.
The legislation allows cities and counties which already have package stores, and liquor by the drink to hold referendums allowing wine in groceries.
"So many people have moved into our state and really want wine in grocery stores, so this is about what the people want, and that's why we need to be listening," says Sen. Ketron.
The vast majority of liquor stores owners oppose the change.
"We'll live to fight another day," says liquor store owner Chip Christianson.
They argue that major grocery chains will put mom and pop liquor stores out of business.
While the Senate committee may have passed the bill, the close vote indicates the final decision could be tight.
"Hope and expect that the full legislature will understand that, and not allow this bill to proceed," says Christianson.
But at least for now, after six years, wine in groceries is moving forward.
"I'm just glad we got this first step out of the way and behind us. I think it gives momentum to the bill," says Sen. Ketron.
There are Republicans and Democrats on both sides of this issue, which only adds to the uncertainty.
A House subcommittee could cast its first vote on the plan next week, and once again, it's expected to be close.
For news updates follow John Dunn on twitter @WZTVJohnDunn
Tuesday, February 26 2013, 10:26 PM CST
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