Indiana Gov Signs New Carryout Beer Rule Into Law

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Indiana Gov Signs New Carryout Beer Rule Into Law

03/01/2018
cold beer bottles

INDIANAPOLIS — The long-debated ban on Sunday alcohol sales dating back to the 1930s came to an end on Wednesday, Feb. 28, thanks to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.

This weekend will mark the first Sunday that sales of alcohol will be legal for Indiana groceries, drug, liquor and convenience stores with existing permits. Sales will be limited to the hours of noon to 8 p.m., reported Kokomo Tribune.

Last summer, the state’s Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association led and funded “Chill Indiana,” an advocacy campaign that looked at reforming Indiana’s alcohol laws and pushed for Sunday sales. Coinciding with the campaign, Chill Indiana released a public poll, which showed that more than 70 percent of Hoosiers support giving drugstores, grocery stores and c-stores the right to sell cold beer, as CSNews Online previously reported.

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) championed the signing as an example of the legislature addressing constituents’ concerns.

“Today’s bill signing is a big win for all the Hoosiers who voiced their support to end the decades-old ban on carryout alcohol sales on Sunday,” Bosma said. “It was good to see legislators act quickly to bring this long-awaited convenience to consumers.”

Ricker’s convenience stores owner Jay Ricker had also lobbied for alcohol sales reform. Ricker’s 56 c-stores in Indiana sell alcohol.

“While we are happy to see the legislature taking this step, it only represents a small step,” he said.

Though Ricker doesn't anticipate significantly more alcohol sales at his stores, an economic impact study conducted by the Distilled Spirits Council expects statewide Sunday sales of alcohol to generate between $7.7 million and $11.5 million in new tax revenues for the state. In addition, Sunday sales would increase Indiana spirits sales volume by an estimated 4 to 6 percent annually, according to the news outlet.

“Hoosiers will now be able to purchase alcohol on the second busiest shopping day of the year," said Distilled Spirits Council Vice President Dale Szyndrowski. "Helping local businesses and the economy is something that everyone can toast."

The state's reversal of the long-banned Sunday sales of alcohol happened quickly over the past six weeks. On Jan. 22, Senate Bill 1, authored by Sen. Ron Alting (R-West Lafayette) passed the Senate 39-10. Those voting against the bill were Republicans. Moving to the House, representatives passed the plan 82-10 on Feb. 20 with an amendment to make the law effective upon the governor's signature.

The Senate concurred with the amended bill 38-10 on Feb. 22. Nine of the same 10 Republicans voted against the measure, which moved on to the governor's desk.

Usually, the effective date of recently-passed legislation is July 1.

"We discussed and thought about July 1 as a date. Normally, we allow some time for communities to learn about the new law and for people to understand what's changing, but I think everybody gets this one. There's no reason to hold it back any further,” said Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn), who sponsored the Senate bill in the House.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody questioned the legislature's focus on cold beer instead of other, more pressing matters.

“The third worst quality of life in the nation. Stagnant wage growth that cost Hoosiers $5.4 billion in lost earnings last year. These are challenges that require leaders to act with bold vision. Hoosiers expect their elected officials to step up to the plate and prioritize the issues that matter,” Zody wrote in a statement following the signing.

“This session, Indiana Republicans refused to even swing the bat. It's shameful that this appears to be a top priority. With timid leaders like Gov. Holcomb and a state facing massive structural challenges, Hoosiers might just need a stiff drink,” he added.

Hoosier lawmakers also have debated whether to expand the sale of cold beer for carryout beyond package liquor stores. That issue is tabled for now, but Ricker said he isn’t done fighting.

“Basically, while we are happy to see Sunday sales, one of the big issues is cold beer, and that has not been addressed," he said. "We will be back again and again. That’s what the mission is.”

Last March, Ricker found a way around the cold beer restriction. The c-store chain applied for and received alcohol permits typically assigned to restaurants for its locations in Columbus and Sheridan because of the stores' food offerings. However, lawmakers moved quickly to close the "loophole." By April, Ricker's will have to remove cold beer from both of those stores.

"My biggest disappointment is I don’t think legislators are listening to all of their constituents. Liquor stores have been very vocal and have been contributors for years. I think it's very difficult for legislators to want to vote for cold beer, knowing the effect it will have on these people they have relationships with," Ricker commented.