Indiana lawmaker pushes Sunday sales of alcohol, cars

Indiana shoppers would be able to buy a six-pack of beer or a new car on Sundays if state Sen. Phil Boots is successful in rolling back two of the few remaining blue laws still in effect in Indiana.

Boots, R-Crawfordsville, has sponsored bills that would legalize Sunday purchases of carryout alcohol as well as the sales of cars, trucks and other vehicles.

"I think we should synchronize our laws with the lifestyles of today. Sundays have become the second-biggest shopping day of the week, and people should be allowed to make purchases on those days," Boots said.

Business groups say it doesn't make good business sense to change the laws. Car dealers say people can't get insurance or loans on Sundays, and retailers argue liquor stores would be at a disadvantage if forced to compete with grocery and drug stores that are already open and don't incur additional costs to open an extra day.

"I concede that it would be easier to buy alcohol, it would be more accessible, if they win this," said John Livengood, president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which represents many of the state's liquor stores. "But we don't think that's where we should be going.

"The laws aren't designed to make alcohol more accessible. The purpose is to control access to availability," he said.

Blue laws are rooted in the 19th century, when many Protestants believed observing the Sabbath was a form of religious obedience, said Indiana University history Professor Jim Madison.

Those religious values changed during the 20th century as individual freedoms became more important.

"We began to feel differently about what we wanted our government to tell us to do or not do," Madison said.

Many religious groups haven't made Sunday sales a priority, said Andrew Downs, assistant professor of political science at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

"It is not one of the issues that they traditionally have decided is worth going to the mat for," he said.

Boots believes most Indiana residents don't want to be told when they can buy motor vehicles or alcohol.

"I'm not trying to attack the sanctity of Sunday being the Sabbath or a day of rest or whatever you want to call it. I'm just saying it makes sense to me to allow people to make the purchases they want to make when they want to make them," he said.

Boots said he finds it odd that Indiana allows residents to go to a bar, restaurant or sporting event on a Sunday to drink before heading home, but prohibits them from buying packaged alcohol that same day so they can drive home and drink it.

"In my opinion, that encourages you to drink and drive," Boots said.

Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council, argues Sunday sales are convenient.

"It's what our consumers tell us they want," he said. "If you're heading out on a Sunday to go grocery shopping, you want the ability to buy a case of beer or a bottle of wine when you're buying all of your other groceries."

Marty Murphy, executive vice president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Indiana, said car dealers oppose Sunday sales because there hasn't been any consumer demand.

He contends that many car dealerships are open until 9 p.m. on weeknights, so people have plenty of time to buy cars. He also said most car dealers and their employees want Sundays off.

Boots said car dealerships can remain closed if they want. Murphy, though, said that wouldn't be practical if the bill passes.

"If the guy across the street opens, you can't afford to lose that potential sale," Murphy said.

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