Could the courts do for expanded beer sales in Indiana what the Indiana General Assembly has been unwilling to do for ages?
And if the courts rule that Indiana’s laws are unfair when it comes to which retailers can and which retailers can’t sell cold, carryout beer, how much longer will it be before Hoosiers can ring up a six-pack or a bottle of wine over the counter on a Sunday?
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves ...
Last week, the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, demanding a way around a state law that regulates the sale of cold beer.
The bottom line: The law allows sales of cold packaged beer for liquor stores, but not grocery stores and convenience stores. (Microbreweries are allowed to sell cold carryout beer, but it is limited to what is made on the premises; no cold Budweiser can go out the door.)
“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, executive director of the convenience store retailer group.
The laws in Indiana really are a grab bag of permissions and denials when it comes to liquor sales.
Other than the rules about cold-beer sales, the other contentious piece is the ban on most Sunday retail sales. (Again, microbreweries have an exemption, justified at the Statehouse as a concession for local tourism.)
Liquor stores looking to protect their piece of the market have fought the changes. And the General Assembly has been unwilling to take up the issue.
At some point, lawmakers are going to give in to the will of consumers over the demands of the retailers. Will the courts find grounds to force the state’s hand, starting with rules on cold-beer sales?