Those craving a cold beer to wash down their fried butter at the Indiana State Fair may soon have their wish granted.
Senate Bill 168, authored by Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, would allow the sale of alcoholic beverages during the State Fair.
The Indiana State Fair is only one of two state fairs that prohibit the sale of alcohol.
“Because of the current statute in place, during the state fair no alcohol can be sold," Leising said. "We have microbreweries and wineries that really would like to not only be able to display their products, but to sell their products. That’s what I’m trying to make happen. It will be interesting to see if I can get support. It’s one of those common-sense bills, I think.”
According to Andy Klotz, media relations director for the Indiana State Fair Commission, the event has prohibited sales of beer, wine and spirits since 1947.
But the law was put into place for an unexpected reason.
Alcohol was prohibited after the state fair of 1947 because of a littering problem. Administrators decided to do away with alcohol sales entirely after too many beer drinkers failed to put their empty bottles in trash cans.
Klotz, who is in favor of the bill, said he hopes the beverages will be available for fairgoers to purchase sooner rather than later.
“This is something that has been an issue for a while and we are happy that the legislature is taking a look at it,” Klotz said.
He said the hope is that revenue would increase.
“That is part of the reason we are encouraged that the legislature is looking at this. We need to find ways to keep costs down but maintain the facilities we have in place,” Klotz said. “That takes a big effort.”
Alcohol is served at the state fairgrounds at many other events throughout the year. The Indiana State Fair is one of the few exceptions.
Klotz said he believes the transition to allowing alcohol at the state fair would be an easy one.
“The State Fair Commission already has a liquor license and does hundreds of events each year without any issues. It’s not a foreign process,” he said.
Alcohol would be sold in designated areas, and only fairgoers 21 and older would be allowed in those areas.
While supporters believe the change will be positive, critics – including Drug Free Marion County – said the possible sale of alcohol is an issue.
The group says the beverages may cause problems and threaten the “family-friendly environment” the state fair promotes.
“We feel that it brings along too many problems,” said Nancy Beals, prevention project coordinator for Drug Free Marion County. “Looking at other state fairs who offer alcohol, you see news reports with people urinating in parking lots and DUIs often involving those transporting children. It’s nice to have a family-friendly event where alcohol doesn’t have to be involved.”
Beals also said while alcohol sales would add revenue, the profit would be offset by the increase in public-safety costs to control the environment.