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Indiana lawmakers push for Sunday alcohol sales

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Lawmakers in the last state in the nation to bar retail alcohol sales on Sundays are making a push to lift the restriction, but strong opposition from liquor stores could leave Indiana's effort as flat as an open bottle of champagne.

Two bills introduced early in this legislative session aim to broaden a state law that currently restricts Sunday alcohol sales to restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries.

Indiana's ban on retail alcohol sales dates back to Prohibition. The sponsor of one bill said allowing Sunday carryout alcohol sales would bring in more tax revenue for the state, but liquor store owners contend their overhead costs would increase in order to staff their stores an extra day.

Liquor store owners also argue that allowing Sunday sales would essentially spread out six days' worth of sales over seven days and worry that more people would buy alcohol while shopping at grocery stores instead of making a trip to a liquor store.

"This state not allowing Sunday sales has kept us in business," said Jon Sinder, co-owner of Crown Liquors, a chain of Indianapolis-area stores. "In other states, you can't buy spirits at big-box retailers."

But Republican Sen. Phil Boots of Crawfordsville, who authored the Senate bill, said it's time for Indiana to adopt a free-enterprise mind-set. He also said the bill could be a money maker, bringing in $10 million annually if it passes.

"The state of Indiana has said it's OK to consume alcohol on Sunday but they've picked who the winners are and who the losers are," he said. "I think that it's time we become more competitive. Competition is not a bad thing. The liquor stores don't want to compete."

Liquor store owners say competition isn't their only concern. They contend their stores are more heavily regulated than big-box retailers and argue that the package liquor industry helps keep alcohol out of the hands of minors.

"All of our clerks are licensed and trained," Sinder said. "If we go, then the state becomes less safe."

Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, who authored the House bill, argues that Indiana's current law might be less responsible because it allows for Sunday carryout sales at restaurants.

"How silly is that that we allow somebody to drink and drive home but we don't allow somebody responsible to buy that alcohol on Sunday to take it home and enjoy it?" he asked.

Indiana has loosened its alcohol laws to promote tourism and economic development, Boots said. In 2010, lawmakers approved a bill that allows microbreweries to sell beer for carryout on Sundays.

But the effort to lift the Sunday sales ban has failed in recent years. Grocery stores hope 2013 is different, as Sundays are typically the second-biggest shopping day of the week.

John Elliott, a spokesman for grocery chain Kroger, said the ban is "a customer service problem."

"Every single Sunday, we've got customers who are disappointed that they cannot purchase this product. This is particularly a challenge in communities that have a heavy concentration of factory or shift workers," he said. "There are households that can only shop on Sunday."

Ray Cox, president of liquor store chain Elite Beverages, said Sunday retail alcohol sales are probably "not a big deal either way" to most consumers.

Jerry Owens, 44, of Indianapolis, said it's an inconvenience to not be able to buy alcohol on Sundays, but that people are familiar with the law and have to work around it.

"I don't see anything wrong with (the bills)," he said. "I'd buy beer on Sunday."

Eberhart is hopeful that the legislation will get enough support to make it out of committee. No date has been set for either bill.

"I think public opinion has changed over the years and we're a society now that we want convenience and speed," he said.

Eberhart noted that liquor stores wouldn't be required to open on Sundays, but said he thinks the decision should be left to the stores, not the state.

"I don't think it's the government's position to tell you when you can and can't sell your product," he said.

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  • Sunday sales
    Sunday sales are not the problem with small liquor stores. It is the licensing issues. No one under 21 in liquor stores, all employees are made to have a liquor license. Grocery stores, drug stores operate sales thru their pharmacy license not the beverage commission. Kids can run up and down the isles in these stores. No separate entrance required. No liquor stores do not get the break on purchasing the alcohol as big stores do. True they ban together to order for the best deal, however how to 20 small stores compete with the thousands of Wal-Marts, Krogers and so on across the country??? They should have to be licensed the same way as Liquor stores.
  • Look all Around at our boarders
    At least one liquor store owner makes sense. Service!! Store owners who try to convince us they will go our of business is ludecrious. Have all the independent liquor stores in the other 49 state gone out of business?? How stupid is that. In addition, grocery stores loose about 2 to 3% of shelf space on Sundays but they still have it on the shelf even though they can't sell it. Saturday has the most DUI's according to the NTSB. In Indiana, this may be due to intoxicated individules having to go out and buy liquor before the stores close Saturday night. I just wish I lived close to any of our boarders so I could easily cross over and purchase WHEN I WANT TO!!
  • The Fridge
    Please repeal all alcohol laws concerning refrigeration, also, please. Thank you.
  • What Would Jesus Do?
    Jesus and the 12 drank wine at the "Last Supper" not grape juice. For this poster's information we tried Prohibition in this country and all it did was jump start the Mafia and most of ancestors crooks. A drunk will find it no matter what you do. Let's get real here.
  • Doug is right!
    Doug, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject; I agree with you! I would love it if my local mom and pop liquor store held tasting and did fun things to draw the locals in...and even if they didn't, I'm sure I'm not alone in my desire to support my local business owners...I choose to go out of my way to shop mom and pop in Westfield.... and appreciate what mom and pop stores bring to a community;
  • Thanks Doug
    Doug, thanks for taking the time to educate us and share your opinion. I do believe you guys have a competitive advantange especially in carrying some of the boutique beers and ales. Keep up the good work and we will keep supporting you.
  • Owner comments
    I own 2 liquor stores and am a member of the IABR. Our association has brain washed every liquor store owner to beleive that if the state allows Sunday sales all independents will go out of business. I firmly do not beleive this and I think it frankly hurts our credibility with consumers. Many liquor stores are in co-ops that can buy liquor just as cheap as the big box stores. Now, the Walmarts of the world can certainly operate on much smaller margins than can an independent liquor store. So, what we need to do is differentiate ourselves from the big box stores and provide better service, free tasting events and the products our local customers want, among other things. I am glad to hear some people, like myself, hate to fight the crowds at the big box stores. I try to avoid them whenever possible. There is no service and don't think about asking for a certain brand they don't have, it won't happen. I shop local whenever I can. I have talked to the head of the IABR and have expressed my concern about fighting the Sunday sales issue. I am in the minority in the group. But think about it, if Sunday sales in Indiana is passed that leaves only one issue the IABR can fight for, cold beer at the big boxes (at least cold when you purchase it but maybe not by the time you check out). So, this is self preservation for the IABR. If there is nothing to fight for we don't need the IABR. I have tried to explain that the IABR could become more of a marketing association (advertising), like "Pork, the other white meat" and try to get folks to buy at local liquor stores that provide better and quicker service. The IABR has grat people and they put on nice events for members each year, but I beleive they are off target on the Sunday sales issue. Cold beer is another story. This could certainly impact the independents. The big boxes do not have the same rules as the small guys, why? because they have the deep pockets. Thanks to all who support there local liquor store.
    • Alcohol is the Devil's Fuel
      Less drinking would be a good thing. Why not limit sales to Monday and Wednesdays? The would cut store owners expenses and maybe save an alcoholic.
      • Still picking winners and losers
        The larger corporate liquor store chains (Crown, United Package, 21st Amendment, Big Red) all easily have the critical mass to survive if Sunday sales are approved, yet they're the ones with the most money and influence tied up in trying to defeat the bill. It's the little Mom and Pop stores that will definitely go under (or, more precisely, they'll be forced to sell out to one of the above retail chains). So whichever way the law goes, winners and losers are still being picked. Believe me, the owners of the bigger retail liquor store chains are VERY rich people, who couldn't care less about their Mom and Pop colleagues. Aside from all of that, I would still rather go to a retail liquor store on Sunday than to wait in line for a half an hour at Wal-Mart. One more thought: does anyone besides me think it's interesting that the retail liquor store chains are joining forces with the neo-prohibitionists (all MADD is these days) and the evangelical snake-handling crowd to defeat this bill? Talk about your strange bedfellows...
        • Voter's rights or Liquor Store owners?
          Isn't it our rights as citzens to choose where we want to buy our groceries, clothes, gas and alcoholic drinks? Since when are the liquor store owners the constituency?
        • Lame
          Liquor stores oppose this because they don't want to incur the expense of staffing their stores on Sundays? The don't open! And Boots is spot on -- liquor stores don't want to compete. LAME!
        • Missing argument
          Sometimes it is truely embarassing to be a Hoosier. Why are we always so proud to be the last state in the nation to move forward on matters trivial or not? It is time the state of Indiana stop protecting a certain group of business people and allow free enterprise to decide the winners and losers. However there is a missing argument from the media as well as our law makers and residents. That missing argument is this: Why Sunday? What is it about that day that we should practice restraint from alcohol? It is no coincidence that Sunday is a holy day of obligation for many Hoosiers. Is our government dictating to us that we must observe God on Sunday? People who have a strong faith will refrain from drinking or at least buying on Sunday but our government has no business forcing Hoosiers to observe other peoples faith. If it's that important to keep one day a week free from carry out sales then let's make it on a Wednesday. Why Sunday? Let's stop being the laughing stock of America and stop acting like a bunch of hicks who live around a race track.

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