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    Indiana C-stores Appeal Cold Beer Ruling

    IPCA challenges state's alcohol law on federal, state levels.

    INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (IPCA) is fighting a judge's decision to reject its attempt to overturn a state law that prohibits convenience stores from selling cold beer.

    The IPCA is challenging Indiana's law governing the sale of cold beer with an appeal in federal court and a lawsuit in state court, according to the association. Its release was posted on WNDU.com.

    "Our members and the public understand Indiana's alcohol laws lack common sense, and we are asking the state and federal courts to put an end to this," said IPCA Executive Director Scot Imus. "It is clear the monopoly liquor stores have limits consumer choice and hurts the growth of our state's economy."

    In mid-June, a federal judge in the Southern District of Indiana threw out a May 2013 lawsuit seeking to allow convenience stores to sell cold beer in Indiana. In his 34-page ruling, released June 16, District Court Judge Richard Young upheld current state law that only allows package liquor stores to sell beer at "chilled" temperatures, while all other retailers must sell it at room temperature, as CSNews Online previously reported.

    In the federal appeal filed July 15 in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, IPCA and its members stated "there is no rational basis to allow liquor stores to hold a monopoly on cold beer particularly when their compliance rate with Indiana alcohol laws is so poor. The U.S. District Court's decision in June failed to overturn an archaic law regulating the sale of beer based on temperature."

    In addition, the IPCA and its members have filed a lawsuit in Marion County Superior Court claiming Indiana's alcohol law regarding cold beer sales violates the Indiana Constitution.

    Under current Indiana law, convenience, grocery and pharmacy stores are only allowed to sell warm beer. The law does not apply to wine products, allowing c-stores to sell these products cold.

    According to IPCA, the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission's figures show that since 2005, liquor stores received 1,877 violations, which equates to 1.73 violations per permit holder. During that same period convenience, grocery and pharmacy stores only received 928 violations or .321 violations per permit holder.

    Citing results from the Indiana State Excise Police's Survey of Alcohol Compliance, IPCA also said since 2010, stores with liquor permits averaged an 18.9-percent failure rate when it came to preventing the sale of alcohol to minors. Stores will grocery permits only averaged a 7.7-percent failure rate. Convenience stores are issued grocery store permits.

    "Convenience stores' record of compliance clearly demonstrates that owners and associates are responsible retailers who know how to best keep alcohol out of the hands of minors," Imus said. "Employee training programs and technologies are investments convenience stores make to keep their stores safe and successful."

    IPCA filed its original lawsuit in May 2013, claiming that Indiana's alcohol law favors one class of retailers over another in violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

    Judge Young rejected the IPCA's claim that the ban on cold beer is "arcane" and said that since the state legislature drew a line on what it would allow and made a case for it, it is not his position to act as a super-legislature and overturn it. He also wrote that allowing c-stores and grocery stores to sell cold beer would increase alcohol sales within the state, making it more difficult for the Indiana State Excise Police to enforce liquor laws.

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