SB 284, the bill to allow sale of all wines in grocery stores, failed on its first run in the House today, with the vote 47-33 and 12 present. So it will receive another vote.
This is the so-called compromise between Walmart, some major grocery retailers and owners of so-called county line liquor stores that operate big stores that profit from sales in neighboring dry counties.
In return for approval by some liquor stores to wine sales in grocery stores, Walmart and grocery stores agreed not to seek local option elections in dry counties for eight years. An agreement on this bill circulated as early as November — powered by lobbyists Bruce Hawkins and Joe Bell — said the governor’s office was on board with this proposal though the governor’s office has denied taking any ownership in enforcing it, as the agreement says.
Under current law, grocery stores can only sell Arkansas wine or wine from small producers elsewhere. The proposed legislation also provides some grants to Arkansas wineries and encourages building of a wine tourism center in Arkansas.
Owners of some 400 retail liquor stores in Arkansas have opposed the legislation saying it would put a damaging dent in their profits. As a sop to them, the bill allows some expansion to the amount of food that retail liquor stores are allowed to sale, by regulation of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.