Lawmakers will hear Sunday sales law this week

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This week, a state House committee will do something it’s never done before – consider the possibility of legalizing Sunday alcohol sales at stores across Indiana.

The push for Sunday sales is gaining momentum during the 2013 legislative session, and supporters say Super Bowl Sunday shows why the law needs to change.

“This is a perfect example of what’s wrong with the system,” said Grant Monahan of the Indiana Retail Council. “On the biggest national sporting day of the year, people who live in Indiana aren’t able to go to the stores they like to frequent – drug, grocery and convenience stores – and buy alcoholic beverages to take home and enjoy with their friends.”

“Obviously, this would be a weekend where I think a lot of people would take advantage of it,” said shopper Jerry Papacek.

Two bills introduced during the current session would change the law that restricts Sunday sales to restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries.

The House Public Policy Committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss the measure.

“I think it’s time for the discussion,” said House speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

“It’s simply a competitive situation,” said state Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, who has authored similar legislation in the Senate. “We’re losing revenues to states surrounding us, because they all have permit sales on Sunday.”

Lawmakers point to the possibility for increased sales and more tax revenue for the state.

Many grocery stores and chains support lifting the ban. After all, Sunday is the second-largest shopping day of the week and allowing liquor sales would provide a boost to those retailers.

Most liquor stores, on the other hand, don’t support the change. They’d have to pay to staff their stores on Sunday—something they don’t currently have to do. Liquor stores are afraid the extra day would essentially spread out six days in sales over seven days—while they face stiffer competition from grocery stores who can also sell alcohol on Sundays.

“I traditionally have been opposed to Sunday sales,” said House minority leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City. “There’s questions about whether Sunday sales shifts market shares from more highly regulated liquor stores to less regulated big box stores.”

Liquor store owners also contend that their staffs are trained and licensed to keep minors from getting access to alcohol.

Lawmakers have shown signs of loosening such restrictions. In 2010, they approved a bill allowing microbreweries to sell carryout beer on Sundays.

“We’re obviously very pleased to get a committee hearing,” said Monahan. “And it’s frankly time that Indiana throw off the last vestiges of prohibitionist era policy, and enter the 21st century.”

“We need to release our hold on this and allow everyone to compete on a level playing field,” said Sen. Boots. “we’re simply protecting one industry over another because they don’t want to be open seven days a week.”

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