The Alcohol Code Revision Commission voted 8-7 in favor of cold beer sales on Friday, but that wasn’t good enough.
The committee, which has been reviewing the state’s alcohol laws since late summer, needed a majority of the 17 members or nine votes. Because two members were absent the measure failed to pass.
So the report that will go to the Indiana General Assembly will not recommend that state laws are changed to allow businesses outside of package liquor stores to sell refrigerated beer.
“I think there were a number of close votes and I think that’s reflective of what you see in the General Assembly as well on a lot of these issues which shows how tough these issues really are,” said Beverly Gard, chair of the commission.
In a previous meeting, lawmakers agreed that Indiana should allow alcohol sales on Sunday, but disagreed about who should be able to sell cold beer. Indiana is the only state that regulates beer based on temperature.
“It’s my feeling that if we don’t go ahead and pass some proposed legislation dealing with cold beer that the Legislature is just going to keep kicking the can down the road,” said Gard. “I watched that happen for 24 years.”
Jay Ricker, owner of the Ricker's convenience-store chain, went before the committee to express his support for cold beer sales.
“From the very beginning of this discussion our position has been very clear, we only want the right to expand the options we offer to consumers, not to have new products, just to sell it cold,” Ricker said.
Ricker was a catalyst for the review of cold beer sales regulations after he set up a restaurant in a couple of his convenience stores and obtained a liquor license, allowing him to sell the brew cold.
On Friday, the final meeting of the commission, lawmakers were at odds over whether the sale of cold beer would allow for an increase in sales or if it would simply provide a better service for customers. Others were adamant that public policy should be a driving factor of the vote, but simply did not have enough input from the public.
“My position on this is quite different than I ever anticipated it would be,” Gard said. “The public hasn’t weighed in on this and when you have all special interest groups driving the policy, with no public input, you’re probably not going to come out with the result that the general public wants.”
In other action, the commission approved an amendment to preliminary drafts that would increase excise taxes on beer, wine and liquor and put the increase in the administration and enforcement fund.
The final report will now go to the General Assembly for consideration. If any of the proposed legislation were to pass, changes would not take affect until July of 2019.
Makenna Mays is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.