Hoosier jobs top of mind as Indiana’s largest beer distributor sues state officials

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Monarch Beverage Company, Indiana’s largest beer distributor, is suing top officials with the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission in hopes of gaining the right to supply liquor to bars, restaurants and liquor stores. The Indianapolis-based companies argument centers around Hoosier jobs as does its opponents.

“We are willing and able to compete in an area where the state’s business is dominated by large out-of-state wholesalers,” said Phil Terry, Monarch Beverage Company CEO.

He continued. “A number of our wine suppliers are also starting to produce liquor spirits. We’re not able to provide a full service to them.”

Terry said the prohibition-era liquor law, that keeps alcohol wholesalers from supplying both beer and liquor in the Hoosier state, also violates the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That is the center of the argument in federal court.

“You didn’t want one person in the industry to be so dominant that they could control other segments of it and force people out of business or have predatory pricing,” said Jim Purucker with Wine and Spirits Distributors of Indiana, a trade group that represents wine and hard liquor distributors in Indiana.

The group is petitioning the court to become a party in the federal proceedings.

Purucker said an unfair advantage could be created by a law change, and he hinted at a possible monopoly because only relationships between beer wholesalers and its suppliers are protected by franchise laws in Indiana. Had liquor and wine wholesalers are governed by contracts with its suppliers that can be cancelled without question or compensation.

“We don’t gain any revenues in excise tax or sales tax, and yet we lose good paying jobs simply because Monarch wants to sell more than they sell now,” said Marc Carmichael, President of the Indiana Beverage Alliance, that is also fighting a possible law change.

Monarch’s trucking company, E.F. Transit Inc., has also filed suit. It cannot transport hard liquor currently.

The Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission would not comment on the pending litigation.