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Appellate court upholds state alcohol permit quotas

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A panel of appellate court judges on Thursday ruled that Indiana’s system of issuing alcohol permits does not violate state law.

The decision is a blow to the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which represents the state’s package liquor stores. It sought to stop the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission from issuing new permits until the judges could clarify state quota laws.

But Judge Carr Darden, writing for the majority, upheld a decision last year from a Marion Superior Court judge who denied a motion by the beverage retailers association for a temporary restraining order seeking to halt permits.

“Here, the IABR argues that without an injunction, its members’ ‘rights to fairly compete with other holders of lawfully obtained beer dealers’ permits will be harmed and diluted,’” Darden wrote. “We find no merit in this argument as we have found that the Commission’s interpretation of [state law] to be reasonable, and therefore its issuance of permits, is lawful.”

John Livengood, president and CEO of the beverage retailers association, said he didn't want to comment on the ruling until he had a chance to review it with lawyers.

The dispute arose from a legislative compromise in 2008 that rewrote beer permit rules and lowered the number of available alcohol permits based on population. The association agreed to the deal, provided that drugstores be classified as grocery stores when applying for an alcohol permit—in theory limiting competition.

But the commission has interpreted the law so that groceries and drugstores have separate quotas and, as a result, the association says permit numbers in some cities exceed what should be allowed.
 
Under the improper method for allowing separate quotas, the association argued, the commission is allowing up to twice the number of beer dealer permits under the quota limits.

The commission maintained, however, that since 1973, it has followed three separate quotas regardless of whether groceries or drugstores are lumped together. The quotas are for beer dealers, liquor dealers and package liquor stores.

Package liquor stores and drug stores are authorized to sell liquor and beer, while groceries are allowed to sell only beer and wine. The commission interprets the law as assigning permits to each quota—beer dealers, liquor dealers and package liquor stores.

“Because the Commission is the agency charged with the duty of enforcing [state law] by the promulgation of rules and regulations,” Darden wrote, “we defer to its interpretation of the statutes contained therein as long as the interpretations are reasonable.”

The commission’s interpretation of the law also is reasonable give the Legislature’s apparent intent to regulate and limit the sale of liquor to a greater extent than beer, Darden said.

Mark Massa, chairman of the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, could not be reached for comment.

Before the appellate court heard oral arguments Jan. 31, he said: “We thought the trial court got it right. It’s been the custom and practice for nearly 40 years to count permits in this manner.”
 

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  • Trying To Understand Your Argument
    So Dan, as a consumer, we should want to pay more to support the smaller retailer?
  • Likely Impact
    The little "Mom and Pop" liquor stores in smaller communities are the ones most likely to be affected by the way the law, and this interpretation, apply. They can't buy in enough volume to match big box grocery store and drug store pricing.

    The big liquor retailers (United Package, 21st Amendment, Crown) all saw this coming a long time ago. They were able to distinguish themselves by adding huge selections of wines, beers and liquors, along with trained, knowledgeable staff. A "one cowboy rodeo" store owner can't afford to do that.
  • Grocery stores
    The grocery stores selling liquor now have pharmacies which allows them to work around the law and sell liquor.
  • misinformation by the press
    Gorcery stores have been selling liquor for a couple of years now. How does that class them?

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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