Legislator: Sunday alcohol bill ‘did not have the votes’

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Indiana will keep the distinction of having the last statewide "blue law" banning Sunday carry-out alcohol sales after the sponsor of a bill that would have lifted the ban said Tuesday the measure is dead.

The bill seeking to end the state's 80-year-old ban made it farther — the House floor — than any other in past sessions.

"It was a stretch just to get it to this point," bill sponsor Rep. Tom Dermody said after killing the measure. Opponents pointed to the bill's added regulations on where alcohol could be displayed and sold as the reason it stalled out.

"When it came down to it I think people were uncomfortable continuing to move the bill forward, and we clearly did not have the votes," the LaPorte Republican said.

The restrictions pitted grocery chains and convenience store owners against liquor stores. All beer and wine would have been kept in a designated area, with liquor stored behind the counter. Clerks would have had to be 21 or older and have mandated training, and consumers couldn't purchase hard liquor at a self-service checkout.

Grocery chains, convenience stores and pharmacies have long supported allowing retail alcohol sales on Sunday, but they argued that segregating liquor would create longer checkout lines and inconvenience consumers.

The original bill, which simply lifted the Sunday ban, was fair to consumers, Kroger spokesman John Elliott said Tuesday. But the added regulations turned it into "a package liquor store wish-list" that did far more damage to customers than the greatest possible gain from Sunday sales.

"We came to the session firmly believing that this is the year that Kroger customers would be able to purchase alcohol on Sundays," Elliott said. "It's bittersweet. I would not use the word victory."

Liquor store owners, who originally opposed Sunday sales for fear of increased overhead costs without additional revenue, stood behind the new proposal.

"We're disappointed in the bill not moving toward a vote," said Patrick Tamm, CEO of Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which represents package liquor stores. "We believe the bill was a comprehensive look at where and how alcohol is being sold in the state of Indiana."

Elliott said Kroger and other grocery chains plan to continue the push for legislation that will lift the ban.

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