IBJOpinion

EDITORIAL: Legislate some common sense on cold beer

IBJ Staff
June 21, 2014
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IBJ Editorial

Twenty minutes for a can. Forty minutes for a bottle.

That’s how long a semi-scientific study by the website Gizmodo determined it takes to turn a warm beer into a cold one—by using a freezer or putting the beer on ice.

Those precious few minutes were enough of a distinction for U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young to uphold Indiana’s outdated restrictions on the sale of cold beer.

The ruling likely means a common-sense change to the state’s alcohol rules—allowing convenience stores to sell cold beer—will have to wait for action from our slow-moving Legislature. We’d suggest they make the consumer-friendly move a priority for 2015.

Only liquor stores are allowed to sell cold beer in Indiana, even though convenience stores can sell warm beer and cold wine—which often contains a higher alcohol content.

A federal lawsuit brought by the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association argued the restrictions are discriminatory and don’t allow for a fair marketplace. The case pointed to the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and said the Indiana rules favor one class of retail over another.

The group said about 1,200 of its 1,500 member stores were prepared to begin selling cold beer immediately had they won their case.

The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers argued in favor of the existing rules, emphasizing that convenience stores allow underage visitors and don’t require clerks to hold state liquor licenses.

Of course, the change also would have subjected liquor stores to more competition.

Judge Young’s rationale for upholding the law was that the state has a legitimate interest in “curbing the sale of immediately consumable beer to minors.”

In a 34-page ruling, he wrote that expanding the sale of cold beer beyond liquor stores, taverns and restaurants would make the state’s alcoholic beverage laws “tougher to enforce.”

The suggestion that underage people would just as soon forgo a beer than acquire a warm one seems like a stretch. Is a 20-minute wait for a can and 40-minute wait for a bottle to cool down really a deterrent to underage drinking?

In case you were wondering, Gizmodo found that a beer cools down slightly quicker with an ice bath than with a short visit to the freezer.

But there should be a quicker, more convenient, and probably cheaper option: buying cold beer directly from your favorite retailer.•

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Send comments on this editorial to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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  • More to it
    This issue is much more complex than the IBJ is reporting. But since when do they let facts get in the way of a good story, or a cold beer evidently. I would like to see the IBJ do some real research into how easy it is to obtain a license for a conveneince store to sell warm beer and cold wine. It could not be much easier at this point and the cost is minimal at around $1000. How difficult is it to obtain a retail liquor license? Much more difficult. The rules for obtaining a liquor license are driven by population, one license per 8000 people. Why are convenience stores not held to the same population standards as liquor stores. As a result, liquor licenses (retail liquor stores) are far more difficult to come by and are therefore much more expensive. The laws in IN have lead to the price differences in licenses. Liquor licenses range in value from maybe $150,000 to $1,000,000 or more depending on the location. Again, there are many other factors involved here that are not reported on by the press. Liquor stores can not sell cold pop, candy, many food items, convenience items, etc. My point is, many changes will need to be made at the same time that cold beer is allowed to be sold at every gas station in the state. The IBJ editorial staff needs to do some howework on all the issues that need to be addressed before they come to the easy conclusion that everyone deserves to sell cold beer. And when you say cheaper option, you clearly have no concept of the mark up on a case of beer. Do your homework before you make such silly statements. I have a silly statement for you. I think all media/news should be free and advertisement free. It is important for the public to have access to free information that is not tainted by advertising.
  • My Perspective
    Warm versus cold beer is ONLY a big deal if that is the ONLY advantage that liquor stores believe they possess. Specialty businesses adapt and survive because they offer options and expertise that the general purpose retailers do not provide. A genuinely level playing field would call for adjustments by both sides as well as updated deterrents to underage consumption. A portion of liquor store operators might choose to quit rather than change but that might not a bad thing.
  • Tired old Argument
    The reason no one is paying attention to the tired old argument that no place that sold gas should also sell alcohol is that it never made any sense in the first place. People drive to all kinds of stores, not just gas stations, and so there never was any logical tie between fuel and alcohol. This was just another anti-consumer, protectionist argument trotted out by the retailers who don't want to face competition.
  • Reality Check
    Given that as of 2011 1/3 of all traffic fatalities in Indiana were alcohol related, any proposal that would increase the likelihood of alcohol being consumed in a moving vehicle should be rejected. Why isn't there a discussion of going back to the day when alcohol sales from any establishment where gas is sold was prohibited? Policymakers talk out of one side of their mouths by wanting to crack down on drunken driving then out of the other side by entertaining ways to increase the likelihood that alcohol will be consumed in vehicles. Absurd.

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