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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana convenience stores are calling for changes to the state’s alcohol laws, and want Hoosiers to hear them out.
In order to do so, the state’s Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association is leading and funding “Chill Indiana,” an advocacy campaign that comes as lawmakers prepare to study alcohol laws this summer, reported WBAA.
According to the association’s executive director Scot Imus, the campaign’s exact plans are undecided; but it will use the most influential tool at its disposal: retailers’ relationships with customers.
“The convenience store industry sees thousands of customers and so we have the audience and we will certainly use those stores to reach that audience,” Imus commented.
Coinciding with the campaign’s launch, Chill Indiana released a public poll, which shows that more than 70 percent of Hoosiers support giving drugstores, grocery stores and convenience stores the right to sell cold beer, The Journal Gazette reported.
The poll’s results found that:
- 71 percent of Hoosiers favor allowing all licensed retailers the right to sell cold beer;
- 65 percent support Sunday carryout sales of alcohol; and
- 59 percent oppose restricting the sale of spirits like scotch and vodka to liquor stores only.
Similar sentiments were found in 2015, when a poll showed that nearly 60 percent of Hoosiers supported allowing retail sales of alcohol on Sundays. This was a progression from a 2006 poll by the Indianapolis Star that found that 50 percent supported keeping the Sunday ban in place.
As The Journal Gazette reported, this isn’t the first supportive poll or the first special committee on the topic, but many see momentum this year after a contentious legislative session.
“Indiana's alcohol laws are clearly outdated as many of these policies haven't been overhauled in generations,” House Speaker Brian Bosma said. “That's why Senate leader David Long and I agreed to create a new commission, which will do a deep dive over the next two years to identify responsible, commonsense solutions to bring Indiana's laws into the 21st century.”
As the news outlet reported, the topic of liquor licensing came to a head at the end of a legislative session when GOP leaders realized the state Alcohol and Tobacco Commission had granted restaurant licenses to two Ricker's convenience stores that added sit-down Mexican food.
That license allowed the stores to sell cold beer, wine and liquor for on-site consumption as well as carryout. Liquor stores and lawmakers objected to the newfound interpretation of the law.
In a statement, the Indiana Beverage Retailers Association — which represents liquor stores — calls the campaign “well-intentioned,” but said it misses the point that alcohol is dangerous and buying it shouldn’t be convenient.
“Big Oil is well-intentioned with their polls and campaign. However, they miss the point: alcohol is a dangerous commodity. It is not meant to be convenient,” said Jon Sinder, vice chair of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers. “As our state continues to be embroiled in a deepening addiction crisis, it is more important than ever that we look for ways to control access to potentially fatal commodities, not continue down the road of deregulation.”
In response, Imus said his group is pushing primarily to end the limitation on cold beer, as Indiana is the only state to distinguish between selling warm and cold beer in alcohol licensing. He added that allowing Sunday carryout sales is “an item of low-hanging fruit” for legislators to consider, the news outlet reported.
Legislators on the Interim Study Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Issues examined about a dozen issues related to the sale and regulation of alcohol in 2008 and 2009. Ultimately, the group opposed Sunday sales and voted unanimously against expanding the sale of cold beer beyond package liquor stores.