For the first time in living memory, all Hoosiers will be able to legally buy carryout alcohol from Indiana stores on Sundays.
On Wednesday, Gov. Eric Holcomb was joined by legislative leaders during a Statehouse ceremony as he signed the bill repealing the state’s ban on Sunday sales.
The bill takes effect immediately, which means Sunday alcohol sales will be allowed between noon and 8 p.m. starting this weekend at liquor stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and big-box retailers.
After repeated failed attempts to rewrite the Sunday sales law, the rival trade groups representing liquor stores and groceries reached a deal backing the change.
Due in part to cold beer sales at Ricker’s convenience stores in Columbus and Sheridan, both groups agreed to support Sunday sales while opposing expanded cold beer sales.
Now that the prohibition is history, the dozen Cork Liquor stores located throughout south central Indiana — including seven in Columbus — will open their doors on a Sunday for the first time this weekend.
All outlets will initially be open seven days a week as a way of determining which have better sales than others, said Warren Scheidt, one of the two principal owners of the Cork chain.
That’s despite statistics that go against the grain on Sunday alcohol sales, he said.
“Dollars and cents-wise, I just don’t see it,” Scheidt said.
Liquor retailers in other states have experienced a negligible increase in sales on Sundays, while being open an extra eight hours a week increases labor costs, Scheidt said.
Attempting to secure additional workers is extremely difficult when the local unemployment rate is extremely low, as it is in Bartholomew County, he said.
“We’re already consistently looking for employees,” Scheidt said. “Ask any retailer, and they’ll tell you labor is their biggest single headache.”
Unlike supermarkets and pharmacies, liquor stores are required to ensure their employees are licensed and state-certified, which drives up costs even more, he said.
In contrast, large retail chains are allowed to get by with in-house training for alcohol sales, he said.
“It’s a done deal, and we can’t change it,” Scheidt said. “So let’s see what happens.”
The end of the ban isn’t expected to complicate operations for general-merchandise retailers such as Columbus’ Kroger Marketplace, which opened two years ago at 3060 N. National Road.
Since the 125,000-square-foot store already sells alcoholic beverages six days a week, no additional training of personnel will be required, Kroger spokesman Eric Halvorson said.
However, all the Kroger stores in Indiana will need to have their computers reprogrammed to allow Sunday alcohol sales, Halvorson said.
In addition, large stores such the one in Columbus that have a staff wine steward will have to restructure work schedules to ensure products such as beer and wine are properly maintained on Sundays, Halvorson said.
Kroger operates nearly 2,800 outlets spread over 34 states, so the Cincinnati-based corporation has substantial experience in adapting operations to fit different principles and rules in different areas, Halvorson said.
Since the Marketplace store in Columbus serves a large number of non-native Hoosiers brought to the community by international manufacturers, many customers have never understood why Indiana has maintained a prohibition on Sunday carryout sales, Halvorson said.
The ban stretches back to the 1850s and stayed in place after national alcohol prohibition was overturned in 1933.
While this week’s repeal may be welcome news for those patrons, a number of customers remain perplexed that Indiana still regulates beer by temperature, Halvorson said.
“But that’s another issue for sometime down the line,” Halvorson said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Senate Bill 1, introduced Jan. 3 by State Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, allows a package liquor store, grocery store, convenience store, or drug store to sell alcoholic beverages for carryout on Sunday from noon until 8 p.m.
Restaurants that satisfy Indiana’s requirements to sell carryout are also allowed to sell during the same hours.
The bill was approved 39-10 on third reading by the Senate on Jan. 22.
Final approval was given by the House with an 82-10 vote Feb. 20.
After the Senate approved House amendments on Feb. 22, the bill was signed within a few days by Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the measure, which is effective immediately, into law Wednesday afternoon.