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Liquor store chain wants to intervene in lawsuit

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An Indianapolis-based liquor store chain wants to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed by gas stations and other businesses seeking to overturn a state law banning them from selling cold beer.

Attorneys for 21st Amendment have filed a motion seeking to intervene in the suit filed in May by the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association and several store owners.

The 19-store chain's motion says that if a federal judge in Indianapolis overturns Indiana's ban, pharmacies, gas stations and grocers should face the same host of restrictions liquor stores do, including allowing only customers age 21 and older and being closed on Sundays.

Michael Wukmer, an attorney for 21st Amendment, told The Indianapolis Star the courts need to consider the entirety of Indiana's liquor laws, not just one provision.

He said the plaintiffs might find the rules liquor stores operate under cumbersome.

"The retailers association wants all of the benefits of selling alcohol without any of the restrictions," Wukmer said.

Lou Anne Brennan, the chief financial officer at 21st Amendment, said the costs for those restrictions add up quickly, starting with permits that average $250,000 at auction in central Indiana.

"If they want to have the privilege of selling cold beer, they should also operate under the same restrictions," Brennan said.

Both the state and the retailers group are trying to keep 21st Amendment out of the dispute. They filed motions Monday seeking to prevent the liquor store chain from intervening in the suit.

In the state's response, Deputy Attorney General Kenneth L. Joel said his office is best equipped to handle the defense.

"21st Amendment, Inc., has no authority to assert control over the defense of a lawsuit against the State of Indiana, has no legally recognizable interest in presenting a separate defense of the constitutionality of state statues, regulations, and policies, and has no basis to ask this court to rewrite Indiana law as it relates to the regulation of alcohol," he wrote.

The plaintiffs' lawyer, John R. Maley, said 21st Amendment should file its own suit if it wants to change Indiana's liquor laws. But he agrees with Joel that the courts aren't the arena for that discussion.

The suit Maley filed in May is more narrow and contends that the law regulating the sale of alcohol by temperature is unconstitutional. He notes that the amount of alcohol in beer doesn't change if it's warm or cold.

"We're challenging a particular provision as unconstitutional," he said. "They are effectively asking a federal court to write new state legislation. That's not a possibility."

Indiana's restrictions of cold beer sales are among a mix of laws the state has adopted in the 80 years since Prohibition ended based on religious, social and economic concerns.

Indiana residents also face the nation's broadest restrictions on the sale of carry-out alcohol on Sundays.

Grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores argue the state's liquor laws in essence pick winners and losers. Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council, said the state is catering to liquor stores and that "public policy based on temperature doesn't make any sense."

John Livengood, president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which represents package liquor stores, said the restrictions those stores face coupled with the loss of their control of the cold-beer market would doom their industry.

Livengood said that most shoppers would simply stop making the extra trip to buy cold beer.

"It would destroy the package liquor store industry in the state," he said. "There would be very few survivors."

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  • Careful What You Wish For
    Once grocery stores and convenience stores can sell cold beer the vast selection of items a liquor store offers will dwindle as they slowly go out of business. Once again the consumer is looking at convenience and price and not the entire picture.
  • Freedom
    Indiana should strive to become the freest alcohol-related state in the nation. Let people with a liquor license sell alcohol at any temperature they choose, any day they choose, any time of day they choose, in a drive-through if they choose, and to nineteen year-olds. Also, grocery stores and convenience stores have a limited amount of shelf space for which to sell alcohol, so specialize and don’t be sceeered.
  • Blue-Law Lunacy
    ...and it's these ridiculous Puritan Blue-Laws that remind (other) people how back-woods and out of date Indiana will always be.
  • Try looking through the
    The corrupt liquor store paying protection money? So are you telling me Package & Convenience stores don't pay off legislators to get the things they want done? Are you really that ignorant? This kind of mentality is what keeps these "outdated" laws in place and prevents any form of change from happening. What is Wal-marts mentality? To bring in as many products at much cheaper prices than competition to drive consumers to shop w/ them instead of other local business. In turn, this put many Mom & Pop shops out of business. What Box stores are trying to do is no different, and will force many private owned businesses to shut their doors.
  • Hoosidiots
    Too bad the liquor stores aren't honest. They paid protection money to our corrupt legislature and they want protection. It's as simple as that. Nobody cares about the people who actually live here, and with good reason. We're not bright enough to stop supporting criminals and common scum who buy legislators who in turn pass laws that inconvenience us and make us pay more. Until the average Hoosier grows a pair, this is our future. If you look far ahead, you still might see other, more sensible states. They're leaving us in the dust.
  • Negative image
    Packaged liquor stores are shooting themselves in the foot from a PR standpoint with their incessant lobbying to protect antiquated laws. How many other businesses get this type of government protection?
  • sort of like
    This reminds me of the recent package liquour store uprising against the ability of Hoosiers to buy wine either online or directly from a winery - with the guise that they were concerned about minors being able to purchase illegally.
  • Also...
    But if we did want to debate the age limit question, when did we become too inept to take responsibility for our own actions? Our government is not a babysitter. If people are so stupid that they can't protect themselves without the government telling them what to put in their own bodies, then I say let natural selection take care of it.
  • Oh Ernie!
    We could knock the folks who wrote these laws over the past 60-80 years but the crux of the issue is the hard lobbying package store industry who wants to wag the tail of the legislature's dog. It's all about greed and lack of choice, for consumers.
  • Response to Ernie
    My comment was not aimed at the age limit for drinking alcohol, it was aimed at the fact that there are ridiculous laws that keep (21 and older) citizens from buying alcohol at certain times and locations. Why does it make sense that we can't but alcohol on Sundays? Who does that protect? And why does it matter if the beer is cold or warm - who does that protect? My point is, this has absolutely nothing to do with protecting people who are younger than 21. This has everything to do with protecting special interests.
  • Preston
    The no sales on Sunday is not being fought on a religous front. The liquour stores don't want to be open 7 days a week, and Sunday sales would allow consumers to purchase at grocery stores, drug stores, etc - on a day the liqour stores aren't wanting to compete.
  • Oh, Really?
    If we are to consider the actual, underlying rationale for no (or, limited) Sunday liquor sales AND that people feel they are antiquated, we need to examine the moral implications therein. Religion and religious leaders & zealots were behind the banning (or, restrictions) on Sunday liquor sales. If people are now saying that religion and religious leaders should NOT be involved in this decision, shouldn't we also remove those same issues and leaders from ALL decisions affecting us? Marriage equality, for example? Remember, it's all or nothing here when arguing against religious morality...
  • Really?
    "It would destroy the package liquor store industry in the state"? So that's why there are no package liquor stores in any of the other states--they all went out of business?
  • Response
    The idea that you cannot buy wine or beer on Sunday (when many people shop these days) is ridiculous. If the state is against people drinking on Sundays (which is really none of their business), then they should ban alchohol sales in bars and restaurants. It is 2013, not 1813.
  • Response to Common Sense
    Ok, sounds good. Then let's get rid of the driving age as well, let 12 yr old kids drive if they want...and don't forget to let them buy cigarettes so they can smoke at their junior highs......the rules are there for a reason. Knock the people who CAUSED the laws by their stupidity, not the laws themselves
    • Special interests run amok
      The fact that Indiana citizens cannot buy alcohol when and how they want it because of a state law is an insult to our Founding Fathers. Whatever politician is keeping these laws on the books should be tarred and feathered.

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