Indiana lobbyists appear to be one step closer to ending the state's long-running ban on Sunday alcohol sales, after securing support from a key lawmaker who will help decide its fate.
House Public Policy Committee chairman Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, is sponsoring a bill that would allow groceries, pharmacies and liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. With Dermody leading the committee that sets alcohol policy, the bill should have a better chance at advancing to the full Legislature after numerous failed attempts in recent years. The previous committee chairman always declined to take action.
"It's been an issue that's been coming up for years," Dermody said. "I felt it was time to hear both sides and at least have the debate."
Indiana is the only state that still prohibits retail carryout sales of beer, wine and liquor on Sundays. Large grocery stores and pharmacy chains are behind the fight to repeal the ban, which they say costs stores millions of dollars a year in business and decreases tax revenue. However, the bill's legislative fiscal note weakens their argument.
"Rather than increasing sales, it is more likely that allowing carryout alcohol sales on Sundays would cause a shift in sales throughout the week," the note said.
Liquor store owners fear that lifting the ban would increase their operating costs without generating additional revenue.
Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers CEO Patrick Tamm said liquor stores are more regulated and restricted by the state than chain stores. Employees must be at least 21, and liquor stores can sell only a certain amount of products.
The bill would lift some of those restrictions, but Tamm said the change would hurt small businesses.
"We aren't capable of changing our business model overnight," Tamm said.
Dermody said the bill is not ready to be heard by the committee.