By Brad Hicks

The first permit to allow the sale of wine in a retail food store located within the town of Erwin has been issued.

On Monday, Jan. 23, the Erwin Beverage Board, which is made up of the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, unanimously approved a permit which will allow the Food Lion grocery store located on North Main Avenue to begin stocking its shelves with wine.

Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley made the motion that Food Lion be granted the license to sell wine, with Aldermen Mark Lafever seconding.

Voters residing within the limits of Erwin and the Town of Unicoi passed referendums during the Nov. 8 election to permit the sale of wine in grocery stores located within the limits of their respective towns.

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

State lawmakers in 2014 approved a law permitting the sale of wine in Tennessee’s grocery stores. That law went into effect on July 1, 2016. But, while the law legalized the sale, it was 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 wishing to see wine in their local grocery stores were required to collect signatures on a petition to get the referendum on the ballot.

The referendums for voters in Erwin and the Town of Unicoi appeared on the ballots because petitions disseminated before the November election received the required number of valid signatures.

The petition distributed in Erwin prior to the November election garnered a total of 157 valid signatures, exceeding the necessary mark. The number of signatures required on such petitions was equal to at least 10 percent of the number of people in each municipality 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 for voters residing within the municipality.

The referendum permitting the sale of wine in retail food stores located within the Town of Unicoi passed on Nov. 8 with around 1,000 voting in favor of the measure and approximately 500 voting against.

The Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen has not yet had to consider the issuance of a permit to allow the sale of wine for retail food stores located within that town’s limits.