The Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control department says they couldn’t possibly handle wine in grocery stores.

Those wishing to purchase wine face a couple major hurdles in Mississippi: Mississippi is one of 17 states that control wine (and liquor) sales and distribution, along with being one of only 11 states that prohibit grocery stores from selling wine. 

Read about our recommendation for reforming alcohol regulations in The High Road to Freedom

As is often the case with government-sanctioned and empowered monopolies, the requirement that you must purchase wine from a liquor store has created a strong lobbying force which uses government regulations to protect their entrenched interests.

“Many liquor store owners, though, are afraid allowing wine sales in grocery stores will hurt their business and equally important, cut down on quality choices for customers,” a recent Northside Sun article said. “Tasho Katsaboulas, spokesman for the Mississippi Beverage Merchants Committee, said larger retailers would likely sell the cheaper wines, the same ones that current liquor stores rely on to make ends meet.”

Frankly, our public policy should not be dictated by the whims of any entrenched interests be it business, union, lobby, or otherwise. Our political leaders ought to be seeking to enhance liberty and freedom for the citizens in the market, not restrict certain industries from having to face potential competition.

But along with liquor stores who don’t want the new competition of grocery stores, you also have the state who says they can’t handle that additional volume.

“If you pass wine in grocery stores, I don’t know where you would put it,” Department of Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson recently told members of the state Senate.

According to Frierson, the 211,000 square foot warehouse in Madison that stores wine and liquor is at full capacity, even without Kroger or Walmart being in the market. Keep in mind that it is current government law which mandates that the state control the acquisition and distribution of all alcoholic beverages through one warehouse.

Just as our state policy should not be dictated by the business interests of a certain group, it should not be limited by the ineffectiveness of the government bureaucracy.

If the customers, through the free market prefer to purchase wine through a grocery store, then they should be allowed to do so, and further they should have access to do so without the imposition of government.

Current options on the table involve expanding the existing warehouse which is operating at capacity, decentralizing the process and building warehouses across the state, or privatizing the distribution system.

Ultimately, the state should seek to privatize the system and transfer control of distribution. This would give retailers the ability to work directly with distributors (as they do with everything else they sell in grocery stores), rather than the state, and allow them to make buying choices based on consumer demand, not availability in the state warehouse.

Other states have undergone this privatization process and thus have not only facilitated the empowerment of the free market but have also reduced the existing burden of government operations.