Judge finds ‘rational’ reasons for restricting cold-beer sales

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A federal judge in Indianapolis has rejected a challenge to the state's law that prohibits convenience stores and groceries from selling cold beer.

Judge Richard L. Young issued a ruling Monday saying the state has legitimately drawn a line by only allowing liquor stores to sell cold beer.

The Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, or ICPA, said it plans to continue trying to overturn the law. The group filed its lawsuit last year, arguing the restrictions on cold beer sales are discriminatory and don't allow for a fair marketplace.

Other plaintiffs included Thornton’s, Ricker Oil Company, Freedom Oil and Steven E. Noe.

The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers supports the current law, maintaining that grocery and convenience stores should be treated differently because they don't face age restrictions on who can enter stores and they aren't required to hire clerks with state liquor licenses.

IPCA officials contended the state law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, and that Indiana regulations have evolved “in an irrational and discriminatory manner that favors one class of retail over another.”

The judge disagreed with that conclusion, and said restricting the sale of cold beer to package stores was rational and not unconstitutionally vague.

In the 34-page ruling, Young wrote: “The state has a legitimate interest in limiting the sale of alcohol and, more to the point, a legitimate interest in curbing the sale of immediately consumable beer to minors.”

Expanding the sale of cold beer beyond liquor stores, taverns and restaurants would make Indiana's alcoholic beverage laws "tougher to enforce" by creating many more outlets at which minors could purchase cold beer, Young wrote.

"Indiana's legislative classifications, which serve to limit the outlets for immediately consumable cold beer, is rationally related to the legitimate goals of Indiana's alcoholic beverage laws," Young wrote. "Opening this market to others without restriction is not."

IPCA officials said in a statement that they to keep trying to loosen the restrictions.

Executive Director Scot Imus said Tuesday the association hasn't decided whether to file an appeal, but that isn't the only option.

"And of course, there is always the Legislature," Imus said.

The group filed the lawsuit last year, arguing that the restrictions on cold beer sales are discriminatory and don't allow for a fair marketplace. It also noted that while convenience stores can't sell cold beer, they can sell cold wine that sometimes contains twice the alcohol content.

"This causes confusion among customers," the association said.

Young, however, said that liquor stores, taverns and restaurants are subject to much stricter regulations than convenience stores and groceries. And although the convenience store association claimed that liquor stores were more likely than convenience stores to violate state alcohol laws, Young said the state could rationally believe that "limiting the sale of immediately consumable cold beer to package liquor stores furthers its legitimate goal of curbing underage restriction of alcohol."

He noted that there were far fewer liquor stores than convenience stores or groceries in Indiana, "which naturally results in fewer outlets in the state to purchase cold beer."

The ICPA said about 1,200 of its 1,500 member stores were prepared to sell cold beer immediately if they had won the case.



  • Re: Omar
    Omar, I agree that Indiana craft beer is excellent, but Indiana wine is nasty. Where do you get good Indiana wine?
  • Re: Jason
    Jason, I do think you are missing some very important points. The most important point being that the IPCA lawsuit failed in a valid IN court. I am trying to point out that there are many diffrent rules that apply to liquor stores and convenience stores/grocery stores. These differences were put in place by our elected state legislators. The playing field is not level in many ways, on both sides, and I was simply trying to point out those differences. The judge in the case clearly saw the differences between the two segments and ruled accordingly. If you want the law to change it needs to be done at the state legislature. I think the court made the correct decision, and that is the state of IN has the right to set laws regarding how alcoholic beverages are sold. That is what this case was about, not about where you can buy cold beer because you think you should be able to.
  • Get a Cold Growler of Fresh Beer on Sunday
    I am happy that the antiquated Indiana liquor laws will be kept the way they are. It will further grow and support Indiana's craft beer movement. As long as the beer is brewed on site of the craft brewers, you can buy and consume the OUTSTANDINGLY Fresh, Cold Craft beer...even on Sundays! I don't know for sure, but I think the same is true for Indiana Wineries and the new influx of Indiana Distilleries. Indiana Craft Brewed Beer, Wine, and Spirits Rock!
    • In the Tank
      This judge was obviously in the tank. His argument is that allowing convenience stores to selll alchohol would make it easier for minors to obtain alcohol becaue they aren't equipped to handle the age restriction of 21. Excuse me, but I do believe you have to be 18 to by cigarettes, which are sold by convenience stores. And they handle that just fine. What's this difference between managing a purchase by an 18 year old and a 21 year old? I bet my 12 year old could figure that one out.
    • Stupidest Rule ever
      Pete, your points aren't really making sense to me. This has nothing to do with alcohol sales. I can go to my local grocery store and buy alcohol. That 19 year old that you are petrified of giving buddy discounts to his friends can still give a buddy discount. The beer just can't be cold. How does that make any sense? How is that keeping beer out of minors hands? I am pretty sure that if you are a minor and desperate to get beer, you will drink warm beer. The lack of common sense in this matter makes me feel like liquor stores are trying to say they have minors best interest at heart but they really want to just limit their competition. Maybe I am missing something.
      • not the issue at hand
        do you guys not understand that it is simply a matter of spending money on lobbyists & another judge to get this through? as for selling SODA and other consumables, liquor stores also sell ICE (which is just frozen water) for a 'fair-market value.' restricting the age of the seller means nothing to the buyer other than the convenience of getting something on the go. NO ONE CARES if you have to work Sunday!
      • Re: Fool on the Hill
        If you have some extra time, I encourage anyone interested to check out the IN alcohol sales rules at in.gov/atc To answer your question Fool on the Hill, you can be 19 years of age and "ring up" the sale of alcohol if someone on site has a liquor license and is 21. So, if you are in Wally World and are buying alcohol a 19 year old can sell you the booze as long as someone working at the store is 21 and has a license, even if they are stocking shelves a half mile away in the store. Does that make sense to anyone? It does not to me. How many buddy transactions do you think have taken place under this rule??? You have to be 21 years old to enter a liquor store, period. That goes for employees and customers.
        • actually....
          Actually, Pete, I thought in the grocery stores under 21 year olds cannot sell alcohol or even touch it. Don't they have to call for an adult to even scan it? Which is another farce really, but let's not go there.....
          • RE: PJ
            You are right PJ, the challenge by ICPA lost in a court of law. This means the state of Indiana does have the right to determine how the sale of a product, which you have to be 21 years of age to legally consume, is conducted . My point is that this issue is much bigger than is being discussed and unless you know the full picture you can not truly understand the absurdity of it all. The IABR, the lobbying group that works for liquor retailers, could just as easily have filed a lawsuit for liquor stores to allow persons under 21 to be able to handle and sell its products. The IABR could also sue for the right to sell candy and fountain drinks. I am just trying to provide all the facts so people can fully understand the situation. The law is in place for a reason, whether you agree with it or not is a different issue. If the law is overturned or changed in the legislature perhaps I will have the opportunity to sell candy and fountain drinks. Until then, it is business as usual. One final thing, are you aware that there are still 18 states where liquor sales are controlled directly by the state? So, IN may be backwards in our approach to alcohol sales but we are hardly alone.
          • Re: Pete
            Pete, this is exactly what I'm talking about, these laws are completely antiquated and make no sense whatsover. This story is not about the sale of candy and soda, it is about alcohol and the temperature of it. I also find the inability for liquor stores to sell other convenience items ridiculous too. However, that is not what is being challenged in this lawsuit.
            • Regulation
              Pete, you bring up a great point. This is what happens when the government sticks its nose in the free market. When it starts deciding what some stores can and cannot sell, or how they can sell an item. This is a bigger issue than being able to sell cold beer. At its core it is about property rights and regulation in general.
            • All The Facts
              As an owner of 2 liquor stores I am frustrated that all the facts about the cold beer issue never come out. For example, who is aware that a retail liquor store can not sell cold pop, candy, certain food items? There are differences that exist and that made sense when they were put in place. The state absolutely has the right to limit the sale of a product that you have to be 21 years of age to purchase. You do not have to be 21 years of age to sell liquor, beer or wine to someone 21 years of age in a grocery store or convenience store, does that make sense to anyone? Liquor store employees must be 21 and must go through server training, which other retailers do not have to do. Let's get all the facts out there before we start talking about how unfair and backwards things are in Indiana. I would gladly compete with groceries and convenience stores if I could sell the products they sell. Do you know what the margins are on candy, fountain pop, and other conveneince items??? Far better than on a case of beer, I assure you.
            • Immediately consumable?
              Anyone who has been to the UK knows that beer and ale need not be cold in order to be "immediately consumable." This whole situation is ridiculous/
            • Backwards Laws
              Indiana alcohol laws are so backwards and completely oriented to special interest groups. There is no reason one establishment should be able to sell cold alcohol vs another. The argument about 21 and over and having specially trained staff is bogus since they convenience and grocery stores can still sell the alcohol, just not cold.
            • Absurd!
              I don't personally drink (gluten intolerance) but I find it beyond absurd to have the courts making decisions on who can sell what at what temperature! What's next? Earth Fare will have to stop serving hot coffee in their stores because Starbucks finds it 'anti-competitive'?

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