INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Supporters of ending Indiana’s unique ban on Sunday
retail alcohol sales will have to wait until at least next week before
knowing whether their effort will advance in the Legislature.
Bills seeking to end the ban have been filed by legislators for the past
several years, but an Indiana House committee hearing on Wednesday marked
the first time lawmakers have taken up the proposal.
Public policy committee chairman Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, said after the
hearing that he didn’t support ending the prohibition of Sunday sales but
that he’ll talk with committee members before deciding on whether to advance
the bill to the full House.
“We’ll decide going forward exactly what we’re going to do with the bill if
we’re going to vote on it next week or whether we’re going to amend it,”
Davis said. “We just haven’t made those decisions yet.”
Dozens of opponents to lifting the ban filled much of the House chamber and
gallery for Wednesday’s three-hour hearing, with many of them wearing
stickers saying, “No Sunday Sales.”
Several liquor store owners and employees spoke against the change, arguing
it would benefit large chain grocery and convenience stores that don’t face
age restrictions on who can enter and don’t have the same requirement of
hiring clerks with state liquor licenses.
Supporters of allowing Sunday sales said it would be more convenient for
customers and eliminate an outdated law.
Indiana is the only state that prohibits retail carryout sales of beer, wine
and liquor on Sundays, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the
United States. Indiana is among 12 states with limits on Sunday sales of
Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, said he sponsored the bill ending the
Sunday sales ban because he thought it was inconsistent with state laws
allowing alcohol sales at restaurants, bars, concerts and sporting events.
“We can gamble 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Eberhart said. “ ... We
can visit a strip bar and drink alcohol any day of the week.”
Andy Lebamoff, co-owner of the Cap n’ Cork liquor stores in Fort Wayne, said
he estimated his 15 stores would need to see a $9 million increase in sales
in order to have enough profits to cover the additional cost of being open
an extra day each week.
“It’s going to be a huge expense and burden,” with no assurances of a sales
increase, he said.
The current law protects liquor stores and puts the Legislature in the
middle of picking winners and losers among the businesses of selling
alcohol, said Scott Imus, director of the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and
Convenience Store Association.
"This is not at all about controlling alcohol, this is about controlling
market share,” Imus said.
Supporters of the change said they believed it would lead to increased state
tax revenue from more alcohol sales, but a report by the nonpartisan
Legislative Services Agency said it couldn’t determine how much tax revenue
the change might generate.
Kroger public affairs manager John Elliott said the grocery store chain
estimates its annual Indiana sales could increase by at least $300 million
if it could sell alcohol on Sundays. Elliott said he was optimistic that
legislators would approve changing the law if given a chance.
“We’ve spent so many years with an aggressive package liquor store lobby
blocking open and honest debate, just to have the opportunity to publicly
share our point of view is progress,” he said.