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UPDATE: Debate renewed over Sunday alcohol sales

January 20, 2016

Big-box grocery chains and liquor store lobbyists bickered in front of lawmakers Wednesday over the latest attempt to lift Indiana's longtime ban on Sunday carryout alcohol sales.

"This is strictly about convenience, allowing Hoosiers to do seven days a week what they do six days a week," Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, told the House's Public Policy Committee, of which he is chairman.

No vote was taken Wednesday, but the committee could vote next week.

But the president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which represents liquor store owners, says the bill would lead to less regulation of alcohol.

"We believe that alcohol is not like other products," Patrick Tamm said. "It isn't milk or butter or candy."

The IABR has historically opposed lifting the ban, citing an imbalance in competition with larger grocery stores. The group was on board with last year's version, which placed even tighter restrictions on retailers who sold alcohol. But it was amended to have liquor placed behind a counter, undermining the bills' support from grocery store chains.

This session's measure requires grocery and convenience stores to place alcohol in a separate area and away from toys, school supplies and candy. It would also require grocery and convenience stores to train and issue permits to cashiers who ring up purchases with alcohol products, similar to how liquor store clerks currently function.

"The regulation works, so all we're asking is applying that regulation for one more day," Dermody said.

Grocery chains say lifting the ban would provide greater convenience for customers. They also stand to benefit from an increase in sales, said Kroger spokesman John Elliott, noting that Sunday is one of the company's busiest shopping days of the week.

The Indiana Retail Council, a group supporting the bill that represents retail and convenience stores, also endorsed lifting the ban, saying the state misses out on lost grocery sales on Sundays when customers go to other states where they can buy alcohol.

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