By Brad Hicks

Bottles are already on the shelves at one local grocery store, and the number of stores in Erwin offering wine to their customers is set to soon increase.

The Erwin Beverage Board, which is made up of the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, on Monday, March 13, approved granting permits which will allow the Roadrunner convenience store located at 519 Jonesborough Road and the Scotchman convenience store located at 1500 N. Main Ave. to begin selling wine.

With the approval of the permits, the number of stores within the town limits offering wine will increase to three. In January, the Erwin Beverage Board approved a permit allowing the Food Lion grocery store on North Main Avenue to begin selling wine. That store has since begun offering wine to its customers.

The three stores that have been issued permits by the town since the beginning of the calendar year represent the first three stores in Erwin to receive them since a referendum allowing for the sale of wine in retail food stores within Erwin’s municipal limits passed.

Voters residing within the limits of Erwin and the Town of Unicoi passed referendums during the November 2016 election to allow the sale of wine in retail food stores located within the limits of their respective towns.

In Erwin, more than 1,400 voted in favor of the referendum with around 650 voting against it.

A law permitting the sale of wine in grocery stores across Tennessee was approved by state lawmakers in 2014, and the law went into effect on July 1, 2016. While the law legalized the sale, it was left up to each county or city to have a local option election authorizing the sale of wine in retail food stores. Because of this, those wanting to see wine in their local grocery stores were required to collect signatures on petitions calling for a referendum to be placed on the ballot.

The referendums for voters in both the towns of Erwin and Unicoi appeared on the ballots because petitions that circulated prior to the November election received the required number of valid signatures.

The referendum petition distributed around Erwin received a total of 157 valid signatures. The number of signatures required on the petition was equal to at least 10 percent of the number of people in Erwin who voted in the 2014 Tennessee gubernatorial race. A total of 130 valid signatures was required in Erwin for the referendum to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Erwin Town Recorder Glenn Rosenoff said Monday that Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson had conducted background checks of both the Roadrunner and Scotchman stores and had found no issues with the board’s approval of the permits.

Both Roadrunner Markets and Scotchman convenience stores fall under the ownership umbrella of GPM Investments. Mike Emmons, vice president of operations and acquisitions for GPM, said employees at both local stores are “certified responsible vendors,” meaning they have received training on selling alcohol. Emmons said that training will be maintained and any new employee must undergo the training before manning a register.

The Beverage Board on Monday also approved the issuance of beer permits to the Roadrunner Market stores located at 519 Jonesborough Road, 1415 N. Main Ave., and 1068 N. Main Ave.

Although beer was already sold from each of these stores, the Board’s issuance of beer permits for the stores was necessary due to ownership of Roadrunner Markets recently changing hands.

In February, Richmond, Va.-based GPM Investments announced an agreement to acquire Mountain Empire Oil Company, Inc., which operates as Roadrunner Markets. The sale included all 92 Roadrunner Markets stores, as well as seven quick service restaurants, located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.