Indiana Panel Gathers Facts Ahead of Alcohol Debate

Indiana law has long prohibited the sale of carry-out liquor on Sundays, and has prevented businesses other than liquor stores from selling cold beer. But that could all change after the Indianapolis Legislature Interim Study Committee on Alcoholic Beverages meets later this summer, the Indianapolis Star reported.

The committee will be gathering facts on possible effects brought by a change in the law, before the legislature enters its next session and begins hearing more proposals on liquor-law changes.

Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, pushed to create the study committee, and said he’s most interested in understanding the potential impact expanded alcohol sales might have on drunk-driving accidents and teen drinking. While everyone has an opinion, Alting stressed the importance of learning the facts before the issue is discussed.

“If you work for Kroger, you want the sales on Sunday. If you own a convenience store, you want to sell cold beer to increase your sales. If you’re a liquor store, you don’t want anyone else to have (cold beer sales) because you’re the only game in town,” Alting said. “But none of these opinions are based on solid facts.”

Members of the Indiana Retail Council, which represents convenience, gas and grocery stores, have agreed to increase dues and pay additional taxes to the state amounting to about $9 million if they are allowed to sell cold beer.

“People just don’t understand why Sunday sales are allowed in restaurants, bars and taverns, but not at the store,” said Matt Norris, an organizer with Hoosiers for Beverage Choice (HBC), a coalition of associations that want Sunday sales. “They don’t get why we can sell beer warm, but not cold. It just doesn’t make sense to them.”

This summer, HBC gathered petition signatures at grocery and c-stores across the state, gathering 30,000 supporters.

A poll by the Indianapolis Star last fall showed 46% of state residents supported changing the law to allow Sunday sales, while 45% were opposed, an increase in support from a 2006 poll where 50% were against the change and 43% were in favor.

Meanwhile, some say changing the law would put unfair competition on liquor stores, driving them out of business and taking numerous jobs with them.

The final call may be based on how much revenue the state can gain from extended alcohol sales. In June 2009, more than $4.2 million was collected by the state in alcoholic beverage taxes. But, with an election year approaching, many lawmakers may not want to rock the boat with a controversial change in law.

Indiana is one of only 15 states that prohibit carry-out sales of alcohol on Sundays. It is one of only three that prohibit retailers from selling on Sundays but allow bars, restaurants and taverns to.


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