Vote to Expand Cold Beer Sales in Indiana Falls Short
INDIANAPOLIS — A vote on whether to recommend allowing Indiana convenience stores, groceries and pharmacies to sell cold beer failed despite ending 8-7 in favor.
To succeed, the Alcohol Code Revision Commission, a panel that convened to revise the state's alcohol laws, would have to have favorable votes from the majority of its membership, or nine out of 17 people. Panel members Gina-Gail Fletcher and Alex Huskey were absent from the vote, reported the Indianapolis Star.
As a result of the failure to pass the recommendation, liquor stores are virtually the only retailers legally permitted to sell cold beer for carryout in Indiana.
"Right now special interests are driving public policy. The public is not," said Commission Chairwoman Beverly Gard, pointing a finger at the state liquor store industry as the reason cold beer sales are not allowed.
The commission came into existence after Anderson, Ind.-based Ricker's convenience stores were able to offer cold beer sales after adding in-store seating for foodservice customers. Since then, state lawmakers have passed legislation effectively ensuring Ricker's will not be able to renew its liquor license, and in November the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers and the Indiana Retail Council reached an agreement to cut c-stores off from expanded alcohol sales in the future, as CSNews Online previously reported.
Indiana is the only state that regulates beer sales based on temperature, despite recent polls showing strong consumer support for cold beer sales, as well as alcohol sales on Sunday.
The Alcohol Code Revision Commission consists of eight lawmakers and nine members appointed by legislative leaders. To date, it has voted to recommend increased fines for those who sell alcohol to minors; increased alcohol permit fees; and a 25-percent increase to Indiana's alcohol taxes. Money raised by these changes would fund enhanced enforcement and problem-solving courts, according to the report.
The commission also voted to recommend requiring licensed 21-year-old clerks at convenience, grocery and drug stores that sell alcohol. Alcohol would be required to be confined to one area of the store.
The commission's final report will reflect the close vote on cold beer, Gard said. One panel member, Judge William Boklund, changed his vote in favor of cold beer sales during the roll call.
Lawmakers will have the final decision on whether to make any changes to the law after the 2018 legislative session begins in January.
Ricker Oil Co. founder Jay Ricker plans to continue pushing for cold beer.
"At 8-7, while it doesn't go on as a formal recommendation, we're not done with this," Ricker said, adding that some lawmakers already plan to sponsor a cold beer bill during the legislative session.
Rep. Ben Smaltz, chairman of the House Public Policy Committee, stated that he will only prioritize the commission's actual recommendations.
"I give weight to what we've done here," he said. "If it's a recommendation of this committee for the General Assembly, I think it's going to get the weight it deserves. If not, then I just don't see that being a reasonable track, because that fully discounts the entire process we just went through."