Supporters of keeping Indiana’s strict alcohol laws in place include the powerful package liquor lobby, whose members fear increased competition for sales. But they also include religious groups and social organization, including Mental Health America of Indiana, who fear loosening laws would lead to more underage drinking and more overconsumption by adults.
Backers of cold beer sales and Sunday alcohol sales argue that the public is tired of what they see as Indiana’s antiquated alcohol laws, some of the strictest in the nation.
After five years of failing to make the case in the General Assembly, the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association decided to take its case to court.
The association, along with several storeowners, filed suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the state law that bans gas stations, groceries, and pharmacies from selling cold beer. Under current law, those retailers can sell unrefrigerated beer but only package liquor stores can sell it cold.
Association director Scot Imus said the cold beer ban is both discriminatory and nonsensical.
“When you change the temperature, it doesn’t change the alcohol content,” Imus said. “Nobody is saying it’s not appropriate for the state to regulate alcohol. But the regulation needs to be rational.”
Two of the alcohol bills that did make it through the General Assembly are narrow in focus: One allows Indiana-based wineries and breweries that have been in business at least three years, operating with federal alcohol-sales permits, to distill up to 10,000 gallons of hard liquor a year and to offer tastings of those craft spirits at their venues, like they do their wine and beer.
Davis was willing to let the bill proceed through his committee and onto a full vote.
“It doesn’t explode alcohol sales,” Davis said. “It doesn’t make them into bootleggers.”
Another bill that came out of the Senate allows for the auction of inexpensive liquor licenses to restaurant and bar owners who locate in a lakefront development area along Lake Michigan near Whiting. The law mirrors similar measures that have granted liquor licenses, at a reduced cost, in riverfront development areas and historic preservation districts.