Will Sunday Sales Finally Get Consistent?

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Figuring out Indiana’s confusing, incomprehensible and outdated alcohol laws is enough to drive a person to drink.
You can’t buy carry out liquor on Sunday but you can buy it by the drink. You can buy a bottle of wine at a Indiana winery but not the same bottle at a pharmacy or big box store but you can’t buy a six-pack of cold beer at a liquor store but you can buy a growler of cold beer at a craft brewery. And you can taste sample beer and wine at Hoosier craft breweries and wineries seven days a week.
And no cold beer if you’re buying from a convenience store but you can buy warm beer there but never on a Sunday.
Phew!!! Understand? Neither do we.
The state’s confounding, confusing liquor laws— most notably its antiquated ban on Sunday carryout sales— have been in need of overhaul for years. No, it’s nowhere near the most pressing issue facing Indiana, but as any Hoosier who’s wanted to grab a bottle of wine while picking up groceries on a Sunday afternoon can tell you, it’s inconvenient and annoying. Almost as annoying as a 20-something cashier asking a Medicare Card carrier his/her date of birth when buying alcohol and blaming the Excise Police for the inconvenience.
A poll last month found that an overwhelming majority of Indiana residents favor expanding cold beer sales in the state and allowing carryout sales on Sunday.
Change may finally be coming, according to a member of the legislative summer study group tasked with untangling the outdated snarl of laws.
State Senator Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, says he expects Sunday sales to happen. Indeed, he believes that dealing with this piece of the alcohol issue— “getting that over and off our plate”— ought to be a priority.
Supporters of lifting the Prohibition-era ban may be forgiven for thinking “Here we go again” at Alting’s prediction. For years, there’s been talk of lifting the ban; for years strong opposition from the state’s powerful liquor store lobby (surprisingly not the churches) has helped keep it in place. Just two years ago, a sponsor of a bill to legalize Sunday alcohol sales announced that “Prohibition is over” — only to pull his bill a month later for lack of support.
There’s no good reason for banning Sunday liquor sales by retail stores in Indiana. The state long ago gave up the notion that alcohol may not be sold on Sunday, and for years it has been available by the drink in bars and restaurants. So the store sales ban isn’t really a “blue law” anymore in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s a law that favors one type of business (package liquor stores) over another (grocery, pharmacy, and convenience stores).
For those of us in Southern Indiana, we can travel across the Ohio River into Kentucky any buy alcohol on Sunday. That’s a fact that ought to knot the knickers of the pro-business Republicans in charge of all Hoosier state government.
It would be good if the party that supports removing government regulation and restriction, the party that supports free enterprise and business, the party that controls both the Indiana House, Senate and Governor’s office would live up to their campaign slogans and promises.
But after years of fruitless attempts to change the status quo, yet another failure wouldn’t be a surprise.
But we hope not.
(We thank our friends at the South Bend Tribune for contributing to the research for this column.)