Pence gets bill to give Boone, Hamilton more alcohol permits

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More alcohol permits will be available for development in Hamilton and Boone counties if Gov. Mike Pence signs a bill approved by the General Assembly.

House Bill 1386 would also tweak a 2015 law that deals with regulations for the vaping industry, a proposal that local shop owners say doesn’t really fix their issues.

The Senate passed the bill 63-30 on Monday. It would allow the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to issue up to four new permits each in Whitestown, Lebanon, Zionsville, Westfield, Carmel and Fishers—with the total issued under the new provisions not to exceed 24. The three-way permits would allow restaurants to sell alcohol, wine and spirits to in-house customers.

Each permit would cost $40,000.

Local officials say the permits are needed now to accommodate development that's been stymied under a state system that allocates permits based on population.

Most municipalities in those counties have hit their permit limits, which are based on U.S. Census Bureau figures that are updated only every 10 years. Cities in the northern suburbs have experienced rapid growth—adding thousands of new residents before the new census is recorded.

When a community hits its cap, the only way a business can obtain a permit is to purchase an existing one from a current permit-holder. Privately-sold alcohol permits can cost $25,000 to $90,000. The state typically charges $1,000.

The legislation also changes a law approved last year that blocks the manufacturers of e-liquids used for vaping from doing business in Indiana unless the ATC approves them by June 30. Their applications, however, must include certifications from a security firm that has checked their adherence to safety rules, including remote security monitoring and remote video surveillance.

The problem, according to several e-liquid manufacturers, including a number of mom-and-pop shops throughout Indiana, is that no security firms met the stringent requirements of last year’s law. And they said under the changes approved by the General Assembly and now on their way to the governor, only one security firm now meets the requirements.

They say that creates monopoly business for the firm—Lafayette-based Mulhaupt—and could create a backup of inspections and applications to the state. That’s important because manufacturers can’t be approved after June 30.

Supporters of the bill say they believe other security firms would also qualify.

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