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Sunday alcohol sales backers make final push

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A proposed law that would allow grocery stores in Indiana to sell cold beer and alcohol on Sundays appears to have fizzled in the Legislature this year.

But proponents of the legislation will make a last-ditch push this week to get similar language into another alcohol-related bill that still remains viable.

“There’s still time for us to do something,” said Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council, which has backed the bill. “We continue to talk to legislators and seek support.”

Opponents of the bill from the state’s liquor-store lobby say it’s unlikely the General Assembly would take on the dicey issue during the second-to-last week of the session, when lawmakers already are grappling with big issues such as passing a state budget and new maps for voting districts.

Nonetheless, they're remaining vigilant.

“I never stop worrying until [the legislators] go home,” said John Livengood, president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers. “We’re watching it very closely.” 

Both House and Senate versions of the bill, which also would extend the Sunday and cold-beer sales rights to drug and convenience stores, failed to get a hearing in their respective committees. That makes them ineligible for consideration in conference committee – the last phase of the legislative process – next week. But it’s possible they could be amended into another bill this week.

Among the alcohol-related bills remaining are House and Senate versions of a bill that would undo a policy requiring cashiers to ask every person buying alcohol for identification, regardless of age. Different versions of the bill would require carding only those who look younger than 40 or 50.

Even without such Sunday and cold-beer sales laws passing, Livengood said his members remain concerned about what they have seen as an erosion of market share the last several years. Grocery stores with pharmacies have been permitted to sell liquor openly – rather than behind pharmacy counters – for a few decades. For the last few years, gas stations, like grocery stores, have been able to sell beer and wine.

Those in the liquor store industry say further loosening the restrictions – as groups such as Monahan’s have been pushing for the last two years – would be a final hit that would threaten many stores’ viability.

“Sunday sales would be a big blow, and it would lead eventually to the cold beer issue being successful,” Livengood said. “In this state, cold beer has been one of the things that has kept the package store industry alive. There’s no question in my mind that one would be a killer.”

But Monahan said when other states passed Sunday sales laws in recent years there has been an increase in the number of liquor stores operating. He argued the laws allowing Sunday sales and cold beer sales have “overwhelming consumer support” and that government shouldn’t impose regulations that determine which operations are successful.

Livengood and others say alcohol – because of its potential dangers – should be more heavily regulated than traditional consumer products.

If they’re unsuccessful this week, Monahan said his group will be back next year to push the cause again.

What’s unclear at this point is whether they will tackle the issue of cold beer sales and Sunday sales separately or as a package deal, as they did this session. Monahan said that’s something the coalition of backers for the laws needs to review, should they lose this legislative fight.

He is hopeful, though, that the issue will get traction eventually.

“These are controversial issues for Indiana,” Monahan said. “Controversial issues take time to percolate.”

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  • Vote them out
    It's time to take a look at the representatives who will not move the Sunday alcohol sales forward and vote them out. It's time they represent the people of the state and not their personal views or the lobby group throwing money at them.
  • How many States Don't allow Sunday Sales??
    It is unbelievable to think this will harm liquor stores. 36 of 50 states allow Sunday liquor sales. Those states don't have liquor stores closing because of sunday sales. I can't believe we are so backward as to Sunday liquir sales and our legislature actually spends so much time on this issue. Get with the times conservative idiots. Indiana citizens on the michigan or Ohio boarders can just drive across the boarder on sundays.
  • No Big Government
    There's a mom&pop store for everything and they would all benefit if government shut down their large competitors for the day.

    I don't see laws closing fast food stores so local restaurants can survive. you don't see laws prohibiting sunday sales of movie rentals so you're forced to go to the theater.

    Why do the laws cater to the small business liquor sales. If they can't survive in an open market then they shouldn't be in business.
  • profitable?
    If a business is profitable 6 days a week, it stands to reason that the business would also be profitable on the 7th day. The reason liquor stores are opposed is because they have been sheltered by Indiana law for decades. Just like increasing the parking meter rates, Indiana legislators are afraid of enacting change because they fear not being re-elected. This liquor law is obviously antiquated - change it. I would love to hear an open back-and-forth debate on this topic.
  • Can someone?
    I wish the Indystar or IBJ would please publish what the legislature has accomplished for 2011. Because, I have not seen much accomplished. Other than drawing some redistricts to help Republicans get re-elected and extending all day kindergarden to make mitch's poor education record look better before his 2012 run. And of course some gun laws that have no meaning whatsoever. Can someone point out anything else?
  • Bad Law
    Government has no business impeding upon the free market!

    Consumers will choose lower cost and more convenient options. That is called FREE ENTERPRISE! State Government has no business standing in its way!
  • sunday alcohol sales
    lets just say that someone forgot to buy beer,wine etc.saturday for sunday every bar in indy is open the customer goes to the bar and has 5 or 6 drinks now they have to drive home, it is way more responsible to sale alcohol on sunday and let people take it home than have them drive to a bar and drink there
  • Legal, but...
    Yes alcohol is a legal product if you meet the age requirement. When prohibition ended, it was decided that alcohol should be a regulated product for the welfare of the consumers of Indiana.
    This in turn created the package liquor stores. Package liquor stores are the one place that still is required to meet the full set of rules that were implemented to regulate and control the sale of alcohol.
    To name a few of such rules; everyone entering the a package liquor store be at least 21 years of age and; package liquor store can only sell alcoholic related products. No unrelated alcoholic products can be sold in these stores such as milk, bread, cold soda drinks just to name just a few. There are many more rules that the package liquor stores must abide to in meeting the regulations of the sale of alcohol.
    Yet, in the big box stores and supermarkets, they sell anything and everything without having to meet the same requirements as a package liquor store.
    Yes, alcoholic beverages are a legal product under certain conditions, but like regulated pharmaceutical products, they should not be bought and sold whenever a buyer and a seller come together.
    It is really not a matter of convenience to the consumer or meeting the effective needs of the consumer, it is a matter of how to handle the sale of a product. The State of Indiana, by its representatives in government, has determined the package liquor stores to be the best way to control the sale of alcoholic products for off site consumption and to be the best for the welfare of its citizens.
  • It's legal
    Alcoholic beverages are a legal product and as such should be bought and sold whenever a buyer and a seller come together. It is simple and straight forward. No other rules or laws creating more and more bureaucracy, additional loop holes to be found, lawyers to pay and bureaucrats to bribe; no Al Capone, no boot-leggers, no prohibitionists, no religious considerations. I do personally object to cold beer being sold in grocery, liquor, and quick-stop gas station stores as that makes it easier for some to drink the cold beer or other alcoholic beverage while driving. If people want cold drinks, plan ahead.
  • Super Bowl Indy
    If there is an Indy Super Bowl next year. . .
  • Sunday Sales
    I guess the folks that ran off to IL don't care, they could buy anything they wanted on Sunday in IL.
  • so much for free market
    "Livengood and others say alcohol ââ?¬â?? because of its potential dangers ââ?¬â?? should be more heavily regulated than traditional consumer products." - so based on this statement people should not be allowed to buy cigarretes on Sunday either. Or maybe we should just arbitrarily pick Tuesday as the day. Note I'm a non-smoker and would be just fine if cigarretes were never sold. This rule is and always has been just plain silly. An example of the state's regulators specifically favoring one enterprise over another, undoubtedly directly related to the amount of support they get from one lobbiest or another. For every mom-and-pop liquor store operator who may or may not suffer as a result, there is a mom-and-pop gas station owner or grocery store owner who could benefit. Let them all play on a level playing field and ultimately the consumers will decide who will earn their business.
  • why quash the free market?
    I'm a fan of alcoholic beverage stores, appreciating the product variety and expertise they offer consumers. My favorite such store offers a wide selection of wines and beers from all over the world, instance, not to mention liquors for the discriminating palate.
    But it is not government's proper role to interfere with free markets by deciding which kinds of stores can have privileges that others selling the same kinds of good do not. The basic concept of free markets is that those firms that meet consumer needs effectively will prosper, while those that don't will not.
    It makes no rational sense to prohibit the sale of a legal product on certain days while allowing it on others, nor to restrict the sale of cold beer to only one class of stores while denying that right to its competitors.
    Let the free market do its work. Let consumers choose when and where to buy their beverages. Let's not protect inefficient market mechanisms through irrational laws.
  • So then the government should intervene in a free market?
    If the small business owner cannot compete in a free market they should not be in business. This is artificial interference in a market and it only benefits a few small business owners at to the detriment of the public.

    These artificial market constraints create in efficiencies for the consumer. Blue laws are antiquated and only reflect the olden-timey backwards thinking of NIMBYS in Indiana.
  • Response to Eva
    There aren't very many small business liquor store owners anymore. They are almost all national chains. Even so, favoring those store owners over retail stores is not the answer - nor is such an archaic law that is based in narrow religious affiliation. Our legislature certainly has many more important issues that they have screwed up and/or ignored this session - but this one should have been a no-brainer.
  • Of course it won't change
    The voting taxpayers can't afford lobbyists (read: palm greasers) like the liquor lobby, so I don't expect any consumer-friendly changes any time soon.
  • Lost $
    If the bars and liquor stores are closed for the superbowl there will be many unhappy visitors and a lot of lost revenue for downtown Indianapolis businesses
    • I have changed my mind
      I thought it silly to not sell liquor on Sunday......a useless blue law.

      However, the more I read, I have decided to forget the blue law and consider the small business owner who would have to stay open to keep up with competition. The owner either must not a have day off all week or hire employees for that day. Many cannot afford to go this way.

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