A Senate committee easily and unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to allow grocery, convenience, and liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sundays. It’s the first time such legislation has ever advanced in the Senate.
Public Policy Committee Chair Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) is the author of the Senate’s Sunday sales bill. He says a key to its passage is support from both grocery and liquor stores – the first time those groups have ever agreed on the subject.
Alting also stresses he doesn’t want any changes to the measure.
“In the past, it has been we have been too restrictive to the entities that it affects,” Alting says. “We have tried to do certain things of putting alcohol behind counters in big box [stores] and a separate person to ring it up and all kinds of obstacles that quite honestly just didn’t go over well.”
The bill simply allows stores that sell alcohol six days of the week to also sell it on Sundays from noon to 8 p.m. That measure now heads to the full Senate.
Earlier in the day, the House Public Policy Committee took its first steps in this session’s Sunday sales debate.
The committee heard close to an hour of testimony on the House version of the bill to legalize Sunday alcohol carryout.
None of the 10 people who testified opposed the measure on its face. The Coalition To Reduce Underage Drinking, represented by director Lisa Hutcheson, does want a study on the impact of Sunday sales on underage drinking.
Hutcheson also asked lawmakers to require clerks to receive alcohol training, to increase the alcohol tax, and require stores to keep alcohol in a separate area, not scattered throughout.
“We are not prohibitionists. We know that alcohol will continue to have a role in our society as it always has,” Hutcheson says. “But what role are we going to give it? The role of convenience beverage that is as accessible as milk or candy?”
The Indiana Retail Council, which represents grocery stores, is one of the many groups that have rallied around this year’s Sunday sales push. Council President Grant Monahan says it’s what consumers want.
“And we don’t see any difference between the activities that take place in our member stores six days a week versus the seventh,” Monahan says.
What little debate there was circled around one of the bill’s provisions – the limitation on what hours alcohol can be sold.
During committee discussion, some members questioned the 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. restriction.
Committee Chair Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn), the bill’s author, says those hours were part of a special study commission’s recommendation last year. He says many states restrict the hours alcohol is sold on Sundays, and that for liquor stores who would now have to open on Sundays, 12 to 8 p.m. represents just one shift.
And Smaltz didn’t seem very amenable to expanding the hours any further.
“Whenever you expand alcohol sales, you’re gonna have problems,” Smaltz says.
The House committee is set to vote on the bill next week.