SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE
One step forward, half a step back. So it goes with Indiana’s progress in fixing its antiquated alcohol laws.
Just as it appears to have finally made progress on one issue — the ban on Sunday sales — the state looks to stay firmly entrenched in the past with another: the nonsensical limitations on cold beer sales.
Only liquor stores are permitted to sell cold beer for carryout in Indiana, with few exceptions. Indiana bears the dubious distinction of being the only state that regulates alcohol based on temperature and is one of nine states that restrict or prohibit Sunday alcohol sales. The commission tasked with settling both these issues voted last month to recommend allowing carryout alcohol sales Sunday. It’s still not a sure thing, but it looks more likely that the Sunday ban will finally end.
Less promising is the outlook for expanded cold beer sales. The commission vote on the issue of allowing groceries, pharmacies and convenience stores to sell cold beer fell short.
And you can blame the influence from the state’s powerful liquor store lobby for this failure. That comes from no less than commission chair and former state Sen. Beverly Gard.
Gard had expressed concern in November about how the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers and the Indiana Retail Council had inserted themselves in the process before the commission had completed its work. On Dec. 1, after the cold beer vote failed, she offered this damning assessment: “Right now special interests are driving public policy. The public is not.”
Gard and state Sen. Ron Alting, chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, agree that the cold beer issue is a non-starter in the 2018 legislative session.
Indiana residents have let their feelings on the matter known in two recent public opinion polls, which show that a strong majority of Hoosiers favor increased outlets for cold beer. Not that their interests and convenience have ever led on this or the Sunday sales issue.
So raise a tentative glass to the idea that legislators may finally end Indiana’s Prohibition-era ban on Sunday retail alcohol sales.
But the failed vote on cold beer means that glass is only half full.
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