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IN Focus: Deal reached on Sunday sales, but what about cold beer?

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers (IABR) and Indiana Retail Council (IRC) announced an agreement Friday that could potentially lead to carry-out alcohol sales on Sunday in the state.

The series of policy initiatives would improve the state’s alcohol laws while also strengthening them, according to the organizations.

Both groups expressed support for Sunday alcohol sales without any changes to how alcohol products are displayed or organized. Expanding cold beer sales is not included in the support, however.

They also made the following policy recommendations:

  • The IABR and IRC strongly oppose the expansion of the sale of cold beer in Indiana.
  • The IABR and the IRC believe that the sale of alcohol should be strictly regulated and that the existing regulations regarding cold beer are important safety measures.
  • IABR and IRC strongly oppose new restrictions on the type and variety of adult beverage products sold and displayed by drug and grocery stores.
  • IABR and IRC support significantly increasing the fines for sales to minors. Tripling the fines would generate funds that could be used to increase the number of excise officers.
  • The IABR and the IRC support strengthening and increasing penalties for adults who host parties and furnish alcohol to minors.
  • While the IABR and the IRC recognize that alcoholic beverages are now sold responsibly in Indiana, both organizations support changes that would require a mandatory age verification check for alcohol purchases; and require video monitoring or the presence of store employees in close proximity to the sale and/or display of alcoholic beverages.

Jon Sinder, Chairman of the IABR, and Grant Monahan, President of the IRC, issued the following joint statement:

“As responsible retailers, we need safe regulations that ensure that alcohol products do not get into the wrong hands.

“These common-sense policy improvements will improve public health and enhance safety measures, while preserving the practices and freedom of retailing that Hoosier businesses and consumers deserve.

“The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers and Indiana Retail Council support the sale of alcoholic beverages for carry-out on Sundays for the first time since Prohibition without new restrictions on retailers impacting how alcohol products are currently displayed in stores. They also are unified in opposing the expansion of the sale of cold beer.”

The announcement comes ahead of the next meeting of the state’s Alcohol Code Revision Commission, which is scheduled for Nov. 14.

“This agreement proves that we can work together to deliver results for Hoosiers without compromising on safety,” said Sinder. “The package liquor store industry along with our friends at the Indiana Retail Council are committed to working directly with legislators to successfully draft and pass meaningful and impactful public policy that will allow Hoosiers to purchase alcohol for carryout on Sundays for the first time since Prohibition.”

Jay Ricker, who started selling cold beer carry outs at Ricker’s convenience stores, will have to stop sales by April 2018 when his permit runs out because lawmakers passed a bill to close a loophole allowing the sales. He says this agreement is not enough.

“Backroom deals made between special interests only serve themselves not Hoosiers,” he said. “The public has made it clear they want significant changes made to Indiana’s Depression Era alcohol code, not half-measures that enrich only a few.  From the start we have advocated for a complete overhaul of these laws, and we won’t stop fighting until true reforms are enacted.”

It’s not clear if lawmakers will go along with the agreement when the legislative session begins in January.

The Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association (IPCA), which represents convenience stores, says the agreement between the two long-warring groups should “call into question the credibility of both organizations.”

IPCA issued this statement:

For well over a decade, the liquor store industry has vehemently opposed Sunday sales, testifying numerous times before legislative committees that such a move would put 25 percent of liquor stores out of business. Further, the liquor lobby decried the display of spirits in big box stores, even supplying committee members with pictures of liquor bottles next to toys or at the checkout lane to support its position.

At the same time, the Indiana Retail Council and its members joined forces with convenience store retailers in forming two coalitions over the last decade to campaign for sensible alcohol laws – which included cold beer and Sunday sales. Why are they now suddenly against cold beer sales?

How credible can these groups be when just six months ago each made opposite claims? Frankly, this type of backroom gamesmanship and hypocrisy is exactly what the public despises and what has led to Indiana’s non-sensical alcohol laws.

Alcohol regulations should be based on sound public policy, not upon the wishes of powerful special interests suddenly aligned for the sake of expediency. The convenience store industry has demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that its members are responsible retailers of beer. The IPCA and over 60 percent of Hoosiers believe that Indiana should not regulate beer sales based on temperature.

We call on lawmakers and Hoosiers to see this agreement as nothing more than liquor stores and big box stores protecting their turf. Instead, we would ask legislators to support the common-sense reform of moving beer from store floors to coolers.