SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Indiana convenience stores and gas stations seeking
the right to sell cold beer to customers filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday
aimed at lifting a ban on the practice.
The Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association argued
Indiana’s law is arbitrary and discriminates against grocery and convenience
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, contends Indiana
is the only state that regulates the temperature of beer being sold. It says
the practice started in 1963 and there’s no legitimate purpose for the
restriction. In 1963, Indiana began allowing liquor stores to sell chilled
“In reviewing the history, it became more and more clear to us there really
was not a rational basis for the current law,” said Scot Imus, the
association’s executive director. “The fact the law says pharmacies,
convenience stores and grocery stores are capable enough to sell the product
warm, then it gets rather arbitrary about what temperature it can be sold
at. When you change the temperature, it doesn’t change the alcohol content.”
The lawsuit names the state, the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission and
its chairman, Alex Huskey, as defendants and seeks declaratory judgment and
injunctive relief. Spokesman Brandon Thomas said the commission would not
comment on pending litigation. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he
will argue that the law reflects the wishes of state lawmakers.
“This subject has been debated in the Legislature for a number of years, and
it will be the state’s position that the Legislature is the proper forum for
any changes to our laws and not the courts,” he said.
John Livengood, president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers
that opposes any change in the law, said he expects the courts to side with
Indiana, saying states have the right to determine how alcohol is sold.
“It’s a direct attack on Indiana’s policy,” he said.
The lawsuit was filed specifically on behalf of Wayne County resident Steven
Noe and three Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association
members - Thorntons Inc. based in Louisville, Ky., Ricker Oil Co. based in
Anderson and Freedom Oil Inc. based in Warsaw.
The suit argues the state of Indiana loses tax revenue when Indiana
residents who live in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio or Kentucky drive across the
state line to buy cold beer.
Noe bought a chilled 12-pack of Bud Light from a liquor store in Richmond on
Saturday for $13.36, according to the lawsuit. He bought the same warm
12-pack from a Richmond convenience store for $10.69 and chilled from a New
Paris, Ohio, convenience store for $11.76.
Imus said the fact that the convenience stores and grocery stores can sell
chilled wine products is another example of how arbitrary the law is.
“We don’t think the state should be in the business of picking winners and
losers and allocating market share,” Imus said. “Businesses that are given
the authority and have met the regulatory controls requirement the state
insists upon ought to be able to sell the product the way customers want