Indiana lawmakers have advanced a wide-reaching alcohol policy bill that would permanently allow for curbside pickup of alcoholic beverages from restaurants, wineries, breweries and distillers but exclude grocery stores from the service.
Under Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery stores, along with restaurants and other businesses, have been allowed to temporarily offer curbside pickup of alcohol.
House Bill 1396, authored by Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, would make the those options permanent, but only for restaurants, wineries, breweries and distilleries. Grocery stores would have to stop offering curbside alcohol purchases once Holcomb’s executive order ends.
That means, for example, when someone ordered groceries online for curbside pickup—a practice that has become much more common within the last year—they would not be able to include a bottle of wine or six-pack of beer in their order.
“I would argue when you extend a permanent privilege like that to a giant [business], that it would have a negative impact on policy in Indiana,” Smaltz said.
Liquor stores are already allowed under state law to offer curbside pickup and would not be affected by the bill.
But Smaltz said he thinks small businesses, such as restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries, should have that privilege.
Customers would be required to also order a meal from a restaurant if purchasing alcohol by curbside pickup, but that would not apply to breweries, wineries and distilleries.
“The most harmed during the pandemic have been these little guys,” Smaltz said. “I’m very sympathetic to small business in Indiana.”
The bill, which the House Public Policy Committee passed on Wednesday, would also allow retailers in the Garage Food Hall at Bottleworks that have alcohol permits to sell carryout alcohol. Currently, food and drink vendors can only sell alcoholic beverages to be consumed on site. So, Hard Truth Distillery, for example, cannot sell any of its spirits to go.
Gavin Thomas, vice president of development with Bottleworks developer Hendricks Commercial Properties, told lawmakers in a hearing late last month that some vendors have been hesitant to open in the Garage Food Hall because they would not be able to sell carryout products.
State Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, said when he visited the food hall recently, he ran into that problem after trying a cider and wanting to purchase some to take home.
“That’s exactly the type of thing that this bill is trying to address,” Thomas said.
The legislation would also allow the Indiana Pacers to offer alcoholic beverages from “grab and go” stores in Bankers Life Fieldhouse—something the team had asked state lawmakers for permission to do. The grab and go stores would only be located in ticketed areas and would be staffed by an employee to verify the age of anyone purchasing alcohol.
That provision would also apply to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The bill moves to the House floor for consideration.