For all the things that Hoosiers will count themselves thankful for on Thursday, their legislative leaders’ slow, tortuous move toward fixing the state’s antiquated alcohol laws surely won’t rate a mention.
It’s hardly the most pressing concern for residents, even though a clear majority want this confounding, illogical mess resolved: About 61 percent of adults polled last month favor expanding cold beer sales, while 58 percent want Sunday carryout sales.
But the state’s inability to fix an obvious problem — thanks to power wielded by the liquor store industry — can be frustrating and annoying for Indiana residents.
Even the latest development, a real step forward, comes with a downside. Last week, the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers and the Indiana Retail Council said they had resolved their longstanding differences, which they said will lead to the end of the ban on Sunday retail alcohol sales.
This is no small event, as liquor stores have fought Sunday sales for years, arguing that much of their business would be lost to grocery stores on one of the busiest shopping days of the week.
The agreement contained provisions about liquor sale enforcement and increased fines for those selling to minors. The price for the liquor stores’ concession on Sunday sales? The courtesy of selling cold beer in retain outlets is allowed in liquor stores alone.
In other words, liquor stores would continue their monopoly on cold beer here in Indiana — the only state, by the way, that regulates alcohol based on temperature.
Not surprisingly, the convenience stores and gas stations have cried foul, calling the pact “backroom gamesmanship and hypocrisy.” And Bev Gard, who leads the commission charged with reviewing Indiana’s outdated alcohol laws, says the groups are “really jumping the gun” while the commission is doing its work.
Seems the only voices missing from this debate are ones whose interests have been overlooked for too long: Indiana residents, who have been inconvenienced by the Prohibition-era laws. They’ve been left out in the cold.