News that retail giant Costco may build a store in Catoosa County, Ga., could have politicians in Tennessee reconsidering state laws regarding wine sales.
In recent legislative sessions, Tennessee state representatives have considered repealing the “blue law” that prohibits grocery stores from selling wine, which Georgia law allows.
Chattanooga has the minor advantage of allowing retail sales of alcohol on Sunday, which are prohibited in Catoosa County and throughout most of Georgia.
But that still excludes Costco, which is the largest seller of wine in the U.S. (over $1 billion in sales in 2009) and considered a grocery chain under the Tennessee law.
Catoosa County leaders have declined to officially reveal the name of the business with which they are negotiating to build at Project Hilltop, located along Interstate 75 just north of Cloud Springs Road and less than two miles south of the state line.
Retailers in Tennessee are split on whether the wine law should be changed – grocery stores would benefit, but such “one-stop shopping” would likely impact sales for liquor merchants who are restricted to selling only alcohol.
With a history that dates back to the Puritans, blue laws have long restricted or prohibited a slew of activities, often pertaining to moral issues and activities on Sunday.
From hunting in Massachusetts to selling cars in Illinois, a confusing patchwork of such laws prohibits many activities on Sunday.
Outside of the Mormon-influenced restrictions in Utah, alcohol laws are particularly interesting in the south, where many counties and municipalities have approved liquor-by-the-drink on Sundays in order to lure national chain restaurants that serve alcohol.
But many of the same locales still don’t allow Sunday retail sales, placing a greater burden on those who would prefer to drink in the privacy of their own home rather than a public establishment.
Nearly every recent election cycle in northern Georgia has had some type of voter referendum regarding alcohol, with similar campaign groups both pro and con debating the issue.
The tide has generally been turning in favor of relaxing or eliminating alcohol prohibitions, with the main pro argument being revenue from both the sales and property taxes of national restaurant chains.
Religious groups have claimed that relaxing alcohol prohibitions leads to greater traffic and domestic problems, though law enforcement statistics have generally not backed up that assertion.