Retailers seek reform on alcohol sales laws
Changing Indiana’s “antiquated” rules on alcohol sales could provide a boost in state revenue and a shot in the arm for businesses, a Northwest Indiana business executive and representatives from lobbying groups said Thursday.
In a meeting at The Times, Luke Oil President Tom Collins and leaders from two Indianapolis-based groups said they are lobbying for legislation allowing retailers to sell carryout alcohol on Sundays, allowing all licensed retailers the right to sell cold beer and making other changes for sales rules.
“I would welcome the opportunity to be able to pay labor and utilities on Sunday to have the sales because it more than makes up for the other Monday through Friday sales that you have,” said Collins, who also owns four package stores in Hammond.
State Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, said last week he planned to sponsor legislation supported by groups such as the Alliance of Responsible Alcohol Retailers. Grant Monahan, president of the coalition representing drug, grocery and convenience stores, said Indiana’s rules are vestiges of the Prohibition era and modifying the rules could bring in an additional $9 million in tax revenue to the state.
“In this harried world that we live in, time-starved customers want one-stop shopping,” said Monahan, who also is president of the Indiana Retail Council.
Monahan admitted there is a lot of lobbying work to do especially in Northwest Indiana, but the projected billion-dollar budget deficit along with modification of alcohol rules earlier this year may make legislators more apt to listen to the group’s pitch. He projects the group also will benefit from changes in rules earlier this year allowing microbreweries to sell carryout alcohol in limited quantities on Sundays and extending the time when restaurants and bars can serve alcohol.
The grassroots campaign Hoosiers for Beverage Choices grew out of the coalition’s effort, and Director Matthew Norris said more than 52,000 people have pledged their support in the last two years.
Liquor store owners may be concerned about the potential loss of business from the big-box retailers, but Norris said his group supports stores having the right to stay closed if they want but not by legislative mandate. He said the legislation being sponsored also would expand the commodity restrictions for liquor stores on items such as cold pop and chewing gum.
The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, the trade group representing package stores, has said lifting the product restriction isn’t going to be an automatic boon because big-box stores can become liquor stores easier than a liquor store could become a store like Walmart.
Collins said retailers have been concerned for years about alcohol sales restrictions on one of the biggest retail days of the week, and he’s pleased the effort is gaining traction.
Items sold in package liquor stores
Per Indiana code, package liquor stores are constrained to sell only a limited amount of items. Those items are:
• Liquor in its original package
• Beer in permissible containers, only with the proper permit
• Wine in original packaging
• Bar supplies used in preparation for consumption of alcoholic beverages and in their consumption
• Tobacco products
• Uncooled and uniced charged water, carbonated soda, ginger ale, mineral water, grenadine, and flavoring extracts
• Printed materials
• Lottery tickets
• Cooled or uncooled nonalcoholic malt beverages
• Flavored malt beverage in original packaging