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Bill to lift Sunday alcohol sales ban has fewer store rules

January 14, 2016

A new proposal to lift Indiana's eight decades-old ban on Sunday carryout alcohol sales would impose fewer new restrictions on grocery stores and pharmacies than a bill that failed in the Legislature last year.

The measure represents a fresh attempt by Indiana House Public Policy Chairman Tom Dermody to end the state's status as having the last such statewide "blue law" in the U.S.

The new proposal would require groceries and pharmacies to keep alcohol in a separate area or limit alcohol displays to a single store section that's not adjacent to areas with items such as toys, candy or school supplies. Clerks would have had to be 21 or older and have mandated alcohol training and permits.

Retail stores opposed Dermody's bill last year after provisions were added that would have required beer and wine be kept in designated areas and liquor stored behind a counter.

Grocery chains, convenience stores and pharmacies, which have pushed for years to have the ban lifted, argued that segregating liquor would inconvenience customers and force expensive renovations. But liquor store owners have long opposed Sunday sales for fear of increased overhead costs without additional revenue.

"I learned a lot from last year," Dermody, a Republican from LaPorte, told The Indianapolis Star on Thursday. "I re-evaluated. Other issues can still be dealt with in the future and can still have discussion, but at least the Sunday sales bill should come to the floor, hopefully for a vote."

The bill has been assigned to Dermody's committee, but a hearing wasn't immediately scheduled. Dermody withdrew his bill last year before a House vote after deciding it didn't have enough support to win approval.

The Indiana Retail Council, which has long supported lifting the Sunday sales ban, hasn't yet decided whether to support the new proposal, said Grant Monahan, the group's president.

"Certainly we support the concept of Sunday sales," Monahan told The Associated Press. "We applaud Rep. Dermody for proposing the bill, but we need a little bit of time to look at the various provisions and see how it will impact our stores' operation."

Patrick Tamm, president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which represents liquor store owners, issued a statement saying the bill "fails to acknowledge that alcohol is not like any other consumer product" and, as introduced, "gives big box retailers capabilities to sell alcohol as if it were milk."

"Last year's Sunday Sales bill contained sound public policy that took a hard look at how and where alcohol is sold, which we supported," Tamm said.

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