EDITORIAL: Legislate some common sense on cold beer

June 21, 2014

Twenty minutes for a can. Forty minutes for a bottle.

That’s how long a semi-scientific study by the website Gizmodo determined it takes to turn a warm beer into a cold one—by using a freezer or putting the beer on ice.

Those precious few minutes were enough of a distinction for U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young to uphold Indiana’s outdated restrictions on the sale of cold beer.

The ruling likely means a common-sense change to the state’s alcohol rules—allowing convenience stores to sell cold beer—will have to wait for action from our slow-moving Legislature. We’d suggest they make the consumer-friendly move a priority for 2015.

Only liquor stores are allowed to sell cold beer in Indiana, even though convenience stores can sell warm beer and cold wine—which often contains a higher alcohol content.

A federal lawsuit brought by the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association argued the restrictions are discriminatory and don’t allow for a fair marketplace. The case pointed to the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and said the Indiana rules favor one class of retail over another.

The group said about 1,200 of its 1,500 member stores were prepared to begin selling cold beer immediately had they won their case.

The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers argued in favor of the existing rules, emphasizing that convenience stores allow underage visitors and don’t require clerks to hold state liquor licenses.

Of course, the change also would have subjected liquor stores to more competition.

Judge Young’s rationale for upholding the law was that the state has a legitimate interest in “curbing the sale of immediately consumable beer to minors.”

In a 34-page ruling, he wrote that expanding the sale of cold beer beyond liquor stores, taverns and restaurants would make the state’s alcoholic beverage laws “tougher to enforce.”

The suggestion that underage people would just as soon forgo a beer than acquire a warm one seems like a stretch. Is a 20-minute wait for a can and 40-minute wait for a bottle to cool down really a deterrent to underage drinking?

In case you were wondering, Gizmodo found that a beer cools down slightly quicker with an ice bath than with a short visit to the freezer.

But there should be a quicker, more convenient, and probably cheaper option: buying cold beer directly from your favorite retailer.•


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