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Convenience stores remount challenge to cold-beer laws

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Convenience stores in Indiana are appealing a decision from a federal judge in June that continued to prohibit them from selling cold beer.

Members of the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association said Tuesday that they and other plaintiffs in the original case had filed an appeal of U.S. District Judge Richard J. Young’s decision that preserved current laws restricting cold-beer sales to liquor stores.

“Our member and the public understand Indiana’s alcohol laws lack common sense, and we are asking the state and federal courts to put an end to this,” said IPCA Executive Director Scot Imus. “It is clear that the monopoly liquor stores have limits consumer choice and hurts the growth of our state economy.”

In addition to the federal appeal, IPCA executives said they had filed a lawsuit in Marion County Superior Court claiming that Indiana’s alcohol law regarding cold beer sales violates the Indiana Constitution.

The group and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit last year against the state, arguing that the restrictions on cold beer sales were discriminatory and didn’t allow for a fair marketplace. Currently, convenience stores can sell warm beer and cold wine.

IPCA officials contended the state law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, and that Indiana regulations have evolved “in an irrational and discriminatory manner that favors one class of retail over another.”

Young disagreed with that conclusion, and said restricting the sale of cold beer to package stores was rational and not unconstitutionally vague.

In the 34-page ruling, Young wrote: “The state has a legitimate interest in limiting the sale of alcohol and, more to the point, a legitimate interest in curbing the sale of immediately consumable beer to minors.”

Expanding the sale of cold beer beyond liquor stores, taverns and restaurants would make Indiana's alcoholic beverage laws "tougher to enforce" by creating many more outlets at which minors could purchase cold beer, Young wrote.

"Indiana's legislative classifications, which serve to limit the outlets for immediately consumable cold beer, is rationally related to the legitimate goals of Indiana's alcoholic beverage laws," Young wrote. "Opening this market to others without restriction is not."

The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers supports the current law, maintaining that grocery and convenience stores should be treated differently because they don't face age restrictions on who can enter stores and they aren't required to hire clerks with state liquor licenses.

Patrick Tamm, CEO of IABR, said Tuesday that the group was not surprised by the appeal.

"The plaintiffs have spent a considerable sum of money to bring this challenge and pursue litigation against the state of Indiana," Tamm said. "No doubt they will spend a considerably larger sum to pursue any appeals after a definitive ruling by Judge Young. These plaintiffs are large corporate interests with deep pockets and have much to gain in overturning Indiana law."

On Tuesday, IPCA officials argued that convenience stores have a better record of preventing the sale of alcohol to minors. In rebuttal, Tamm referred to Young's contention in his ruling that comparing compliance statistics between package liquor stores and grocery/convenience stores was "problematic," and that reliance on the the statistics by the plaintiffs was "misplaced."

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  • Great idea...
    Duncan, that's a swell idea, but there are few of my elected officials in any position that I trust to actually represent the people they supposedly speak for. Many are in the pockets of some company, person, industry, or otherwise. I find it sad that we have to rely on businesses to fight for the change, I would wager the majority want. I'm so completely over the Sunday law too. I went to the Upland Tasting Room on a Sunday for a beer emergency, only to discover that growlers cannot be filled at tasting rooms anymore on Sundays. They can only be filled if they brew on site. Yet another asinine, outdated, Indiana law. People, police your own kids - why does the entire society have to? And news flash... if kids want booze, they'll find it. It's not like having drugs illegal makes them inaccessible to minors. That "logic" about warm beer vs cold beer is just completely dumb.
  • Lobbyist rule
    How hypocritical that you can drink cold beer in bars or sporting events (even on Sundays!), but carryout sales must be restricted supposedly to protect our youth. Does this make sense to anyone?
  • The answer is yes
    The answer to your question is that the majority of Indiana Legislators won't change the law, which is all that needs to be done, and they are elected by the people so, while I agree that these rules are stupid, we the people must want things this way. If you want this to be changed, just vote people into office who are not at the beck and call of the "no demon rum on Sunday" folks. For the record I agree with the Judge. This is a legislative issue and not one for the courts to decide. There is no federal constitional issue in where and when the State of Indiana allows you to buy cold beer.
  • Glutton for Punishment
    This is a legislative issue, not a court issue. I find it amusing that the IPCA continues to pursue this case. Their attorneys have somehow sold them on continuing to fight the case in the couurt system becasue they have lost repeatedly in persuading our elected state legilslators to make a change. I encourage and challenge the IBJ, Indy Star, or whatever other news outlet, to do a comprehensive review on the differences between stores that operate under a retail liquor license and C-stores, groceries, etc. that sell beer and wine. The differnces are vast and until someone truly explores the differences the public is only getting one side of the story. Nothing has changed here, this is still ultimately going to need to be changed through the state legislature, not through the court system.
  • Observation
    The Big Reds, 21st Amendments, Crowns and other large chains aren't going anywhere regardless of what happens. A change in the law would probably only hurt the "mom and pop" stores and there aren't too many of them left anyway.
  • Serious question
    Excluding liquor store owners and their paid lobbyists, is there one single person in the state that favors all the impositions and restrictions on liquor sales? This ongoing battle is such an atrocious waste of public resources. I moved here from out of state, and the whole system defies logic--you can't purchase beer on Sunday while grocery shopping because it's the Sabbath? But you can still go to Tiki Bob's and do shots until you collapse?

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