Sunday alcohol sales bill dead for legislative session

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INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 24, 2015) – The push to legalize Sunday alcohol sales in Indiana is dead.

The bill’s author, State Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte), said Tuesday he did not have enough votes to pass the House, pulling any chance for a vote on the floor.

“It’s been made clear,” Dermody said. “There’s no misunderstanding.”

The major controversy was over changes made to the bill, which would have required big-box and grocery stores to sell liquor from behind the counter and keep beer and wine sales in one section of the store.

“The restrictions he put in the bill were extraordinary onerous for drug, grocery and convenient stores,” Grant Monahan said, president of the Indiana Retail Council. “They were burdensome. They were unnecessary. They were bad public policy.”

Lobbyists for big-box and grocery stores fought hard against the provisions, even arguing it would result in higher prices for shoppers.

“It was a victory perhaps in a sense we avoided that damage,” John Elliott said, a spokesperson for Kroger. “But a definite loss to Indiana consumers.”

Big-box stores blamed the liquors stores, and liquor stores blamed the big-box stores, for the bill’s demise.

“I think big-box has to come to the realization that Hoosiers and people throughout the country want some say in terms of a controlled product, a controlled substance, of where and how it’s being sold,” Patrick Tamm said, president and CEO of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers.

Supporters of the current bill argued the restrictions would protect consumers.

“We were willing to put ourselves at risk to open on Sundays with no promise of increased sales,” Matt Bell said, spokesperson for Big Red Liquors. “The bill represented a great step forward in public policy.”

Tuesday’s decision by Dermody came during a critical deadline at the Statehouse when legislation must pass through each respective chamber.

Technically a Sunday sales provision could be added to another bill this session, but no one expects that to happen.

“I think we’ve made some great strides forward,” he said. “But for now we’ll work on other issues.”

Already supporters are promising another fight next session.

“We’ll try again next year,” Elliott said. “I’m pretty stubborn on this.”