Wine issue will be on Morristown ballot

Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 11:31 am

The question of whether or not Morristown grocery stores and convenience stores will be able to sell wine will be on ballot in the Nov. 4 election, which will be a general election for state and federal representatives and senators, officials say.

If the ballot initiative passes, food stores could begin selling wine in July 2016, according to Jeff Gardner, Hamblen County administrator of elections.

Food City or its parent company submitted a petition requesting that issue be placed on the ballot, and the Hamblen County Election Commission approved the measure on Tuesday.

Food City easily surpassed the required number of petition-signers, 10 percent of the city residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election, according to Gardner.

Voting will be restricted to people living inside the Morristown city limits and those who own property in the city.

In order for the issue to be placed on the ballot, a city or county must have already passed a law that either permits licensed liquor stores or liquor by the drink at restaurants.

For that reason, Hamblen County residents living outside the city limits cannot participate in the election because county voters have not approved either ballot initiative.

A vote on wine sales in counties without the enabling legislation can’t occur for the same reason.

The Point restaurant in Jefferson County doesn’t meet the standard because the restaurant has an on-premises permit unique to a state-approved resort area, according to Charles Gibson, Jefferson County administrator of elections.

Gibson said a referendum involving the sale of liquor at liquor stores or restaurants would have to precede the wine-in-stores vote. Gibson said he hasn’t yet received a petition for either scenario.

Gibson said liquor-related initiatives cannot appear on ballots in elections that serve as primaries for any office.

-By Robert Moore, Tribune Staff Writer

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