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UPDATE: Sunday alcohol sales bill defeated by legislative panel

January 27, 2016

Another legislative session will pass without Indiana's ban on Sunday carryout alcohol sales being lifted.

The House Public Policy Committee voted down the measure 8-5 Wednesday, with opponents citing a possible unfair advantage for grocery stores over smaller liquor stores.

Big-box grocery chains and liquor stores have fought for years over legalizing Sunday sales, with this year's measure requiring grocery and convenience stores to place alcohol in a separate area and away from toys, school supplies and candy. It also would have made cashiers at grocery and convenience stores have state permits to ring up purchases with alcohol products, similar to liquor store clerks.

"The field is really unfair," Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, who voted against the bill, said at the hearing. "You have these things that liquor stores have to abide by that grocery stores do not."

The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, representing package liquor stores and advocates for the Sunday ban, argued that lifting the ban would deregulate alcohol sales and make them unable to compete. It supported a proposal last year that imposed tighter restrictions on how grocery and convenience stores could sell alcohol and where they could display the products, but the bill lost the support from grocery chains and failed.

"We were proud to support last year's bill, however this year's legislation, unfortunately, did not meet that objective," the IABR said in a written statement. "We thank the committee for acknowledging that alcohol is not milk or candy and for ultimately upholding Indiana's regulations on alcohol."

But the Indiana Retail Council, which has historically supported lifting the ban, said the issue is about convenience.

"This is really a very simple change to the alcohol beverage law to permit grocery stores and retailers to do 7 days a week what they do 6 days a week," IRC president Grant Monahan said.

The committee also rejected a related happy hour bill that would have allowed restaurants and bars to reduce their prices for alcoholic drinks for a set period of time. Indiana banned happy hours in 1985.

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