Ricker's Cold Beer Sales Have Indiana Lawmakers Scrambling

INDIANAPOLIS — Cold beer sales at Indiana convenience stores may soon be prohibited once again.

On March 29, the Indiana Senate Public Policy Committee voted 8-1 in favor of a bill that would close a legal loophole allowing some c-stores to apply for, and receive, a permit to sell cold beer. State Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) cast the lone dissenting vote, according to The Herald Bulletin

The move follows the addition of cold beer sales at two Ricker's convenience stores in the state, one in Columbus and the other in Sheridan. As CSNews Online previously reported, the convenience retailer applied for, and received, alcohol permits typically assigned to restaurants based on its foodservice offering.

Anderson-based Ricker's has diversified its business with made-to-order Tex-Mex food such as burritos, quesadillas and nachos and in restaurant settings within the chain's stores. 

Under an amendment to House Bill 1469 introduced by state Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette), any grocery store, convenience store or drugstore would be prohibited from operating under a restaurant permit after May 15.

The license approvals allowing Ricker's to sell cold beer were "poor judgment" by the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, said Alting, committee chairman. 

According to The Herald Bulletin, Ricker's redesigned the stores to accommodate requirements for restaurants in Indiana to sell cold beer — they must have $200,000 in annual food sales and a 25-seat capacity.

"We rightfully got those licenses," Jay Ricker, chairman of Ricker's, told the committee. "I don't think it's right after we put thousands of dollars into those stores to take those back."

The proposal does allow those retail outlets to apply restaurant permit if the restaurant area is physically separate from the rest of the store, for example, by another door entrance or service window, among other limitations, the news report said.

The amendment also requires gourmet food stores to have 51 percent of sales in food in order to have a permit to sell alcohol.

"I agree with much of the policy, who should have the privilege of who can sell cold beer," Lanane said after voting against the measure. "I think we have it about right. My concerns are not only unintended consequences, but Ricker's was granted the permit and they did it right."

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