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Convenience stores sue to sell cold beer in Indiana

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Indiana convenience stores are turning to the federal courts in hopes of offering cold beer to customers.

Executives of the industry trade group Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association said Tuesday morning that the organization had filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the state of Indiana over its law governing the sale of cold beer.

Under current law, grocery stores and convenience stores are allowed only to sell warm beer, while liquor stores can sell cold beer.

IPCA officials said that 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.”

“This lawsuit is about fairness, convenience, and promoting competition for the sale of cold beer in a rational and responsible way, so that my members can serve their customers,” said IPCA Executive Director Scot Imus.

Members of IPCA include the Ricker Oil Co., Thorntons Inc. and Freedom Oil LLC convenience store chains. All three companies are included as plaintiffs with IPCA in the complaint against the state, which was filed Tuesday morning in federal court in Indianapolis.

Ricker Oil Co., which operates stores under the name Ricker’s, is based in Anderson and has 50 locations statewide. Thorntons Inc., based in Louisville, Ky., has 27 locations in Indiana. Warsaw-based Freedom Oil, which operates as Freedom Express, has six total locations, all in Indiana.

The state’s liquor laws have been the focus of much legislative scrutiny in recent years, especially those that ban the sale of all beer, wine and alcohol on Sundays at most retail outlets.

Lawmakers pushed to do away with the Sunday restriction in 2011 and during this year’s legislative session, but the efforts ultimately were shelved. In 2010, a law went into effect allowing microbreweries to sell beer for carryout on Sundays.
 

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  • 7.1
    well said!
  • A good first step
    It would be nice if this was the beginning of the end of the unnecessary regulations surrounding liquor sale and distribution in this state. Like Pete said, let the liquor stores sell whatever they want. Let every other store sell whatever they want. Let everyone sell alcohol whenever they want. Let alcohol be distributed as the market commands, not the wholesalers. These laws are archaic and protectionary, and serve no useful purpose for society as a whole (each law, however, seems to benefit one lobbying constituency or another). The court should strike down the cold beer law, and throw out the rest of Title 7.1 in the process.
    • In Fairness
      As the owner of liquor stores I feel the need to point out that c-stores, gas stations, etc. sell many products that liquor stores are not allowed to sell. Liquor stores can not sell cold pop, candy, fountain drinks, many snack foods, etc. Many of these products have much better margins than beer. In fact, a case of beer is probably the lowest margin product in a liquor store. So, I say let them sell cold beer and let the liquor stores sell candy and gum (which have excellent margins). I know I would be better off than I am now. What this group fails to realize is that every state has its own goofy laws regarding the sale of spirits. It is up to each state to make its own laws, it is not a federal issue and the feds will not get involved. I hope they waste a lot of money and resources in the process though.

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