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Indiana prohibition on Sunday retail alcohol sales means no Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve purchases

Dan Carden

INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers looking for an extra kick in their Christmas Eve eggnog, or hoping to celebrate on New Year's Eve with a Champagne toast, had better plan ahead.

Both Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 fall on Sundays this year for the first time since 2006, and Indiana law still prohibits the retail sale of alcohol on Sundays at grocery, liquor and convenience stores.

That doesn't mean it necessarily will be difficult for those seeking a holiday drink to find one.

Adults age 21 and up can purchase and consume alcohol on Sundays at bars and restaurants — if open — as well as at professional sporting events.

Hoosiers can even purchase alcohol for at-home consumption on Sundays directly from the state's many microbreweries, farm wineries and artisan distilleries, again, if open.

But should you forget Saturday to pick up the beer, wine or spirits that you plan to drink Christmas Eve, don't even think about running out to the liquor store down the street — unless that street takes you to Illinois or Michigan.

Jon Sinder, chairman of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, said the liquor store members of his organization have been reminding their customers about the need this year to shop around the Sunday sales ban.

"We encourage everyone to plan ahead when it not only comes to purchasing alcohol for the holidays, but to be safe while celebrating," Sinder said.

"With more people on the roads over the next several weeks and in the celebratory mood that comes with this time of year, please plan ahead, drink responsibly and don't drive drunk."

Hoosiers will be able to purchase alcohol on Christmas Day, whether for carry-out or in-person consumption, thanks to a 2015 law change, enacted by now-Vice President Mike Pence, that eliminated Indiana's longstanding prohibition on all Christmas Day alcohol sales.

In 2018, the General Assembly is expected to consider also rescinding the state's ban on Sunday retail alcohol sales.

State Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, chairman of the House Public Policy Committee, has said he'll file legislation modeled on the Nov. 14 recommendation of the Alcohol Code Revision Commission that carryout alcohol retailers be authorized to sell between noon and 8 p.m. on Sundays.

It remains to be seen whether Smaltz can advance that proposal without changes, since many lawmakers believe Sundays should be treated no different than the six other days of the week when alcohol can be sold between 7 a.m. and 3 a.m.

The Sunday sales issue also is likely to get tangled up in the debate over whether to end the liquor store monopoly on refrigerated beer sales in Indiana.

The liquor store industry opposes changing the state's unique cold beer restrictions. But Sinder is optimistic that Sunday sales will get enacted into law.

"This hopefully will be the last time Hoosiers will be inconvenienced by Indiana's outdated alcohol laws," he said.
Indiana Senate committee to hear proposals for Sunday retail alcohol sales, expanded cold beer availability

Dan Carden

INDIANAPOLIS — Two proposals that could dramatically change Indiana's alcohol sales environment will receive Senate committee hearings this month.

State Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, confirmed Friday the panel will consider whether to approve separate measures authorizing Sunday retail alcohol purchases and allowing cold beer to be sold at businesses other than package liquor stores.

The Sunday sales legislation appears to be on the fast-track to passage. It not only is sponsored by Alting, but it also carries the Senate Bill 1 designation that's typically assigned to a proposal that Senate leadership considers the most important of the session.

Alting's plan mirrors the November recommendation of the Indiana Alcohol Code Revision Commission by allowing any liquor store, grocery store, convenience store, drug store or restaurant that currently sells alcohol for off-premises consumption Monday through Saturday to also sell on Sundays between noon and 8 p.m.

"Indiana is the only state in the nation with a statewide ban on the Sunday (retail) sale of alcohol," Alting said. "Times and public opinion on this matter have changed, and as author of SB 1, I think it is time that we make a concerted effort to pass that law here in Indiana."

Alting was less optimistic about Senate Bill 26, sponsored by state Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, that would end the liquor store monopoly on cold beer sales by allowing grocery, drug and convenience stores to also sell canned or bottled beer out of refrigerators.

That idea won a plurality of support on the Alcohol Code Revision Commission, but not enough to make it an official recommendation to the General Assembly — due in part to opposition by Alting and state Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, chairman of the House Public Policy Committee.

Alting said he nevertheless is willing to give Boots' cold beer proposal its first committee hearing. Though Alting explained that he continues to be concerned about the dangers of expanding cold beer availability to more retail outlets.

"In an attempt to balance my personal views, the views of my constituents and the best interest of the state, I believe that holding a hearing on this issue is now appropriate," he said. "As with all bills presented in my committee, I will give it a fair hearing."

The Sunday sales hearing is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in the Senate chamber. Cold beer will be before the committee Jan. 17.

Committee approval would be just the first step in the long process of making an Indiana law.

The proposal then would have to be endorsed by the full Senate, advance out of a House committee, pass the full House and have the different Senate and House versions reconciled and re-approved by both chambers to get to Gov. Eric Holcomb for his enactment signature or veto.
This is without a doubt one of the dumbest laws on the books. On a Sunday you can go to a bar, drink, and drive home. But you can't bring a case of beer home, and drink without driving home.
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