NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Seven-day liquor and wine sales will be legal in Tennessee if the governor signs a bill lawmakers passed Wednesday, despite an outcry from a pastors' group about the undue influence of "wicked liquor."
The bill would allow liquor stores to open for business on Sunday, effective immediately, and grocery stores to sell wine on Sunday, starting next January. Liquor and wine could also be sold on holidays, with the exception of Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.
The measure passed in the Tennessee Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 17-11. It cleared the House earlier in the week.
Gov. Bill Haslam has indicated that he will sign the bill, spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals said in an email.
The chief sponsors of the bill were Rep. Gerald McCormick, a Republican from Chattanooga, and Sen. Bill Ketron, a Republican from Murfreesboro.
The Tennessee Pastors Network called passage of the measure "despicable" and accused lawmakers of selling out to special interests. "The Bible Belt state of Tennessee had enjoyed a safe, sacred day of worship with liquor stores being closed on Sunday," Pastor Dale Walker, president of the network, said in a statement. "This will now change radically. The Republican supermajority in Tennessee has become the party of Big Liquor, passing beer, wine and liquor sales in many new venues, including rural areas for the first time."
Walker implied that lawmakers who supported the measure would have to answer to a higher power.
"The politicians who voted against this bill will have clean hands and a clear conscience," he said. "The other politicians who voted for it will have the blood of the innocent on their hands with a trail of misery that always follows alcohol and wicked liquor. Many politicians are addicted to the power they have and will sell out Christian values for a check to their campaign coffers just to get re-elected."
Ketron, while arguing for passage of the bill, said 70 percent of constituents wanted the convenience of buying alcohol on Sundays because that is the day most people now do their shopping. He said times had changed.
"We're not the same Tennessee that we used to be," Ketron said.
The lawmaker also said that 40 other states had seven-day alcohol sales and Tennessee was losing money to border states.