December 1, 2017

Cold Beer Expansion Fails To Pass Commission Vote

Some who support the expansion of cold beer sales say it would allow convenience store owners to adapt to a changing market. - File photo

Some who support the expansion of cold beer sales say it would allow convenience store owners to adapt to a changing market.

File photo

A state study commission working to modernize Indiana’s alcohol laws did not get the support needed to recommend expanding cold beer sales.

The vote came after months of testimony and debate, and marks the final meeting of the Alcohol Code Revision Commission.

The proposal, among many involving alcohol laws, would have recommended allowing cold beer sales in more businesses, like convenience stores.

Commission members voted 8 for, 7 against. Even though it got more 'Yes' votes, it came one vote short of the required majority.

The convenience chain Ricker’s sparked this year’s debate on cold beer, when it secured restaurant permits that allow cold beer and hard liquor for carryout.

Some opponents to the change say selling cold beer in more places would lead to increased crime. And some argue it would make it easier for underage drinkers to get access to beer.

But Ricker’s owner Jay Ricker says the state choosing who can and cannot sell cold beer creates a legal – but unfair – monopoly.

“You heard in there today, people defending, ‘Well it’s not a monopoly.’ Well it is. When you only have one channel of trade who can sell cold beer, whether they have one store in a town or whether there’s 40 stores and they have 4 or 5 owners, it’s still a monopoly,” Ricker says.

Ricker says he's confident, after hearing from lawmakers in the Statehouse, that a bill expanding cold beer sales could pass during the upcoming legislative session.

Former State Sen. Beverly Gard led the commission. She says their report to lawmakers will reflect the closeness of the vote on cold beer.

Grocery and liquor stores partnered recently to advocate for legalized alcohol sales on Sunday, while opposing cold beer expansion.

The study commission voted last month to recommend Sunday sales.

In its final meeting the group voted for a number of other recommendations, including a 25 percent increase to taxes on alcohol, and a law requiring sales clerks who handle alcohol sales to be 21 years old.

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