Renewed Sunday liquor fight to focus on money

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A potential legislative battle over allowing carryout alcohol sales in Indiana on Sunday likely will center on economics.

Backers of the proposed legislation, which would allow drug, grocery, convenience and liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sunday, have begun touting a study by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, or DISCUS, estimating that as much as $9 million in additional tax revenue would be generated by the allowance of Sunday sales.

The proposed law also would allow cold beer to be sold at drug, grocery and convenience stores every day of the week. Right now, only liquor stores are allowed to sell cold beer in Indiana.

Opponents of the move discredit the financial aspects of the study because an industry group produced it and it dates back to 2006, before the sales tax was increased to 7 percent.

Their arguments against the study could get a boost from a new report by Ball State University economic professors that predicts no significant financial impact from allowing Sunday sales.

Members of the campaign for Sunday sales, who pressed an unsuccessful legislative fight last session, are undeterred. They plan to release an updated DISCUS study when the legislative session begins in January. And they hope the dollar figures will resonate with lawmakers grappling with crafting a difficult budget next year.

“In today’s climate where every little bit helps, there’s $9 million to be found not on taxpayers’ backs,” said Matt Norris, director of Hoosiers for Beverage Choices. “It’s been one of the many arguments we’ve used – it takes on added importance this year, given the state’s budget situation.”

The proponents’ study is based on the estimated increased volume in alcohol sales, according to what has occurred in other states that have allowed Sunday sales.

They say business is lost on Sundays because shoppers in border counties take their business to neighboring states, and some consumers who might impulse-buy alcohol on that day at the grocery store don’t go back to purchase it later in the week.

“All of us are time-starved,” said Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council. “(Shoppers) want convenience and the ability to purchase alcoholic beverages when they’re doing the rest of their grocery shopping.”

Opponents are expected to push back with equal tenacity. John Livengood, president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, said Sunday sales don’t increase overall sales activity, but spread it out over seven days instead of six.

And he worries that allowing Sunday sales would put package liquor stores out of business. Many package stores are family-owned and would likely stay closed on Sundays even if they were allowed to open, he said, thus losing sales to competitors. Those that do open would be hit by the additional expense of doing business an extra day a week. 

“Some of our members would end up closing some of their units in order to survive,” Livengood said. “We don’t think it would be helpful to us, and we don’t think it is good public policy to go down the road of deregulation, which is where this would take it.”

The Ball State study, conducted by Michael Hicks and Nalitra Thaiprasert from the school’s Center for Business and Economic Research, backs up that assertion. They found that allowing Sunday sales could eventually reduce the number of package liquor stores in Indiana as much as 25 percent.

They also didn’t see indications that people cross over to buy booze in states that sell it on Sundays.

“There’s no evidence that there’s an increase in overall sales,” Hicks said. “What this suggests is people are substituting where they buy booze.”

The argument will continue in coming weeks as proponents kick up their campaign to prepare for the legislative session.


  • License

    I believe the 3-way liqour licencse that you are referring to are for bars/restaurants, not retail stores. The assumption is the licensing requirements would be identical for both grocery stores and liquor stores. A lot of grocery stores now sell hard liquor, so I assume they already have the same license, so I think your point is moot.
  • Impulse Buyer
    I am just that person that they are citing in their study, about people just happening to buy alcohol on impulse when they are doing their grocery shopping. Often times my husband and I are shopping at Sam's club on Sunday and I go by the liquor aisle and think "Ooo! I could get some wine. Or don't I need gin?" But then I remember that idiotic law and pass by the alcohol aisle. And then I DON'T buy that alcohol later in the week, I just forget about it. Now some might say, "Well that's good, you didn't need that alcohol anyway," which might be true. But that is not my point. My point is, good or bad, impulse alcohol buyers do exist!

    And I want to buy alcohol when i want to buy it without restrictions on the day of the week. There shouldn't even need to be a justification for taking away this law. It's ridiculous. 47 other states people. 47 other states don't have this law and they get on just fine. Geesh.
  • No use for this law
    It seems like this law has morphed into an issue of the government protecting certain businesses. If they are so concerned about alcohol sales on Sundays, why not ban it in restaurants as well? Why not ban cigarette sales on Sunday? How about candy sales?
    People saying that you just just plan ahead and make your purchases the day before miss the point...there is no reason for this law to be on the books.
  • You forget that there is already competition
    All stores will have to have the same licenses. These stores already compete with each other. I would also be willing to posit that the ones spending the most on alcohol are not buying it a week in advance for the following friday or saturday night. Through college I cannot count the times that I headed to the grocery store to buy beer late on saturday night. Had the LQ been open on sunday I would have waited till morning and bought it there.

    Also, People hate Wal-Mart. It is a horrible experience. The people who spend money on alcohol are picky about their drinks. Wal Mart isn't localized enough to keep up with the demands of the connoisseur. When was the last time you shopped at Wal-Mart for a single malt scotch, a nice malbec, or a specialty beer?

    I guess the lesson is, if you own a LQ and you are worried about free market competition.... SPECIALIZE. Find a target market that hates wal-mart. I know your business might have to change, but thats the nature of competition. Move forward or get left behind. Do you want to be the one who fails? Just because your business is running fine right now it doesn't entitle you to endless easy sailing. Get better at what you do, in the end it is better for everyone. If you can't do it any better then you can no longer compete and it is better for society if you do something that you are good at. There is no reason that society should bend to keep any system inefficient. Optimize the competition and you optimize the benefit to society.
  • Compromise for Consumers
    It seems that this 2-part law only has one part that people can't agree on. How about
    1. we allow all stores to sell alcohol on sundays, AND
    2. we keep the restriction in place that only "liquor stores" can sell cold beer?

    Is this too easy of a compromise, or am I missing something? The big-box stores are trying to add-in a benefit for themselves with cold beer sales for all, and now the consumers will suffer with no change when half of this bill should easily pass.
  • Compromise for Consumers
    It seems that this 2-part law only has one part that people can't agree on. How about
    1. we allow all stores to sell alcohol on sundays, AND
    2. we keep the restriction in place that only "liquor stores" can sell cold beer?

    Is this too easy of a compromise, or am I missing something? The big-box stores are trying to add-in a benefit for themselves with cold beer sales for all, and now the consumers will suffer with no change when half of this bill should easily pass.
  • Your Confusing Your Permits
    Mike, nothing in this proposal would allow a convenience store to sell beer or wine for a "nominal fee." Any store wishing to sell alcohol would have to acquire the same alcohol permits any establishment would. Liquor stores choose to sell hard liqor and so they may pay more for the suitable type of permit; however, so would a convenience store wishing to also sell hard liquor.
  • state protection part 2
    I do agree with you that the law is here to protect not only the interest of liquor store owners but also fill the coffers of the state.
    My point is:
    After charging up to $400 000 for a permit to a liquor store owner, is it fair for the state to allow the wal-marts of the world
    to receive such a permit for a nominal fee?
    i am a capitalist at heart, but what fair is fair.
    Charge the wal-marts the same fee!
    I'll bet they will not go for it!!!!
    the only fair answer is for the state to reinbourse the liquor store owners for the cost of their licences!
    And, after it is done, let the competition do what it is suppose to do!!!
    • Licensing
      Mike, any store selling alcohol will still need a license to do so. The three-way licenses you refer to are actually for bars and restaurants, though there is a corresponding license that allows a store to sell hard liquor in addition to beer and wine. That said, even if there is no economic effect, the state should still lose the Sunday sales ban. There is no reason for the law to remain in effect, except to protect the interests of liquor store owners.
    • state protection
      In the last few years indiana sold 3 way licences (liquor store licences)at auction for as much as $400 000. If I was a liquor store owner (I am not) I would expect this exorbitant amount of money buy some kind of "protection" from the state.
      Today's "protection" for liquor stores is the exclusive right to sell cold beer and be closed on Sunday.
      If the state decide to remove this "protection" by cold beer sales anywhere and Sunday sales,will the liquor store owners ask for their money back?
      Or will the state charge the Wall-Marts of the world these stupid amount of money for the "right" of selling cold beer and Sunday sales?
      i am curious to hear from the experts!!!!

      • Self Serving: Lets vote on it
        Figures don't lie but liars figure. There is only going to be so much liquor sold in a week or month. This is a ploy for the big guys to run more small retailers out of business. At least the small retailers live and spend their money in our state. Where does the big guys spend the bulk of their profits ?
      • The real effect...
        It is illogical to imagine that changing the hours of sales will increase consumption significantly. What is logical, however, is that buying from big chains means that more Indiana money goes out of state. Thus the ultimate tax effect on the state, after all multipliers are taken into account, will be a net decrease in revenue.

        But even if we assume that the study is correct, that consumption will increase with Sunday sales, is that what we want? Are we really willing to accept that more alcohol consumption will not take a greater toll on state resources in other areas?
      • Free Market
        Let the market decide...it is not fair for the customer to have restrictions from the local store owners. These guys are doing just fine and they can choose themselves whether they want to be open on Sundays.
      • Comment Title
        I should be able to buy whatever product I want, when I want, any day of the week. This law should never have been on the books to begin with - it was some dumb law pushed on society by bible thumpers. Allow sales on Sunday and let the free market decide. I usually do my grocery shopping on Sunday and I should be able to buy a bottle of wine or a case of beer if I want to - end of story. Throw out this stupid law and let's get on with our lives, k?
      • Income Opportunity
        Totally agree with the Sunday Liquor tax. Would be a great revenue enhancer for a State that needs more revenue. Plus, would offer at least some reason to continue to patronize small Mon - Sat liquor stores!

      • Smokescreen
        The whole thing about shoppers' convenience and more tax revenue is just a smokescreen. The big box stores just want a segment of the market they don't now have.

        Convenience? I know a lot of drinkers who do as I do -- if you need extra booze for Sunday, you just buy it on Saturday.
      • Outdated Law
        I don't understand why there needs to be justification to change this law. To me it doesn't matter if a change will result in increased tax revenue. The real issue is the government's interest in prohibiting Sunday alcohol sales, and whether that interest is legitimate. If there's no legitimate reason for the prohibition, it should be changed. Maybe someone can refresh my memory as to the State's current claim (not religion which obviously was the original purpose) for the reasons behind this law.
      • Let us Decide
        Why can't consumers simply decide when and where to buy a product? Funny I don't hear anyone crying about the government limiting choice on this one... Where are the tea partiers? :)
      • Sunday sales = more money; ha-ha
        I, nor any of the drinkers that I know and I do know quite a few, would not buy any more alcohol than they drink now just because they can buy in on Sunday. I am astounded that people believe the spirits industry numbers. It is so blatantly self-serving.
        • Additional Taxes on Sunday Liquor Sales
          Why not raise the sales tax to 10-15% for Sunday liquor sales? If the opponents are saying there will be no increase in sales?

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