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Group tries to turn Sunday booze ban into July 4 fireworks

June 28, 2010

The Alliance of Responsible Alcohol Retailers is using the July Fourth holiday—which falls this year on Sunday—to drum up more support for ending Indiana’s long-standing ban on Sunday retail sales of alcohol.

The alliance, which is funded by trade groups of drugstores, groceries and gas stations, so far has collected more than 48,000 signatures supporting changes to the state law. But in the past two years, the group has twice failed to persuade the Legislature to allow Sunday alcohol sales.

Indiana is one of only three states banning the sale of all alcohol by retail stores on Sundays. Hoosiers still can buy drinks at restaurants, bars or sports venues. Thirteen other states ban the sale of hard liquor on Sundays.

“Planning a Fourth of July barbecue this weekend? Well, don’t forget to plan ahead,” the alliance wrote in a news release distributed Friday. “Thanks to Indiana’s outdated alcohol laws, you won’t be able to buy your alcoholic beverage of choice in the store on the day of your celebration.”

The alliance includes such retailers as CVS, Kroger, Marsh, Meijer, Speedway and Village Pantry.

“This is not a surprise. I expected them to do something around the July Fourth holiday,” said John Livengood, president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, a trade group for package liquor stores. “Most Hoosiers know what our laws are. So I don’t think that’s a big deal.”

Naturally, Indiana’s liquor stores are happy with the current system, which requires them to be closed on Sunday but also restricts the number of competing establishments where consumers can buy and carry out cold beer.

They’re not eager to allow massive retailers, such as Kroger or Wal-Mart, to encroach on their market shares—or, as Livengood warns, use their large buying power to reduce prices and put liquor stores out of business.

His most effective argument to the state Legislature has been that Indiana’s package liquor stores are an effective system for providing regulated access to hard alcohol. Wider access, he cautions, would come with social problems.

“The more places you have to sell alcohol, especially where minors are allowed to shop, the more problem you’re going to have,” he said. “More underage sales, more drunk driving, more public intoxication.”

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