Gov. Eric Holcomb on Friday defended the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission on its decision to award a restaurant permit to some of Ricker’s convenience stores, which has allowed them to sell cold beer.
The Indiana ATC is taking heat from both lawmakers and warring factions of Indiana’s alcohol industry over its decision, with some questioning whether the ATC misapplied the law.
“The state of Indiana has followed the law,” Holcomb told reporters. "If the General Assembly seeks to tweak that law, it’s up to them on how they move forward. I am confident we acted within the law.”
Holcomb said it’s possible that Indiana avoided a lawsuit in issuing permits to Ricker’s.
But he didn’t lay out any guidance for how the General Assembly should act in the debate, saying that “we’ll address [changes to state law] as it hits my desk.”
Alex Intermill, an attorney representing the chain of convenience stores, told lawmakers this week that Ricker’s did not find a loop hole in state law, as many have alleged.
“It wasn’t anything the ATC got wrong or misinterpreted,” Intermill said. “It was very clear."
Generally, convenience stores in the state are able to sell warm beer or cold wine, but the sale of cold beer for carryout long has been reserved for Indiana's liquor stores, a right the industry's lobbyists have fought to protect for years.
Ricker's bypassed that restriction by obtaining a separate liquor license typically reserved for restaurants after it added seating and began offering made-to-order burritos and other Tex-Mex food at two locations. Lawmakers have said the cold beer sales go against the spirit of the existing state law.
Ricker's acquired the permits allowing for cold beer sales for two of its 56 locations in February. A Columbus location opened and began serving alcohol under the new license March 1, while a Sheridan location began its cold beer sales last week.