Legislators appear on the verge of allowing the sale of alcohol in retail stores on Sundays—although “appear” is the key word in the sentence.
For years, Hoosiers have clamored for the ability to do what customers in most other states can do: Go to their local liquor store or Walmart or CVS on Sunday and buy beer or vodka or a bottle of wine.
That seems simple enough. But when it comes to alcohol laws, nothing in Indiana is simple.
Myriad competing interests are at play. Perhaps the most persuasive argument has come from liquor-store owners, most of which paid handsomely for their licenses to operate their stores and believe they will be hurt by Sunday sales.
That might seem counterintuitive. After all, the chance to sell a product more often seems like a recipe to make more money. But for the liquor stores, it means the expense of being open and staffing the store for one more day—and maybe without any additional benefit.
Allowing Sunday sales doesn’t mean Hoosiers will buy more alcohol. And what some probably will do is buy their beer and liquor at larger retailers like Walmart or Kroger while doing their grocery shopping on Sundays. In short, the change could devalue liquor-store licenses.
So for years, lawmakers have listened to the liquor stores’ pleas to leave the law as is. And it’s not just because those stores donate to their campaigns. They do, but so do the big-box stores and the convenience stores, which have been clamoring for Sunday sales for years. Lawmakers have listened to liquor-store owners because they are often local. They sponsor ball teams, serve on not-for-profit boards, and are influential in their communities. But the debate about Sunday sales has gone on so long that liquor-store owners have had plenty of time to prepare financially for the day when they would lose this fight.
It appears they know that time is now.
In a surprise move, their lobbying group—the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers—has teamed with the Indiana Retail Council, which represents groceries, to support Sunday sales. Unfortunately, the alliance is based on a quid pro quo: The retailers will join the liquor stores in expanding the sale of cold beer but leave out the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, which represents convenience stores.
Once again, it’s all those competing interests. It’s past time for lawmakers to say, “Enough.” It’s time to write sense into Indiana’s alcohol laws—and it needs to happen without regard for special interests.
Lawmakers have an obligation to listen to their constituents and develop a system for selling alcohol that serves and protects Hoosiers’ interests first and foremost.•
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