Poll finds majority of Hoosiers support looser alcohol laws

By Christina Ramey

INDIANAPOLIS – The fight over Indiana’s alcohol laws continued Monday when the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association revealed results of a poll indicating most Hoosiers favor looser alcohol laws.

Between May 8-11 pollster Fabrizio, Lee & Associates surveyed 600 Hoosiers. The survey asked people their opinions on various alcohol related topics such as allowing Sunday carryout sales, repealing the commodity restrictions on liquor stores, allowing all licensed retailers to sell cold beer and allowing minors to enter a liquor store with their parent or guardian. 

“This poll confirms that Hoosiers view Indiana’s alcohol laws as nonsensical and in desperate need of change,” said Scott Imus, executive director of Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.

The poll found 71 percent of Hoosiers were in favor of allowing all retailers to sell cold beer, 65 percent were in favor of allowing Sunday carryout sales and 64 percent were okay with repealing the commodity restrictions on liquor stores. The results also indicate 67 percent of Hoosiers oppose allowing minors to go into liquor stores with their parent or guardian.

The results of the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association poll that asked Hoosiers thier opinion on alcohol reforms in Indiana. Photo by Christina Ramey, TheStatehouseFile.com

“I wasn’t really surprised by what the poll showed us. It’s exactly what we’ve been saying,” said Jay Ricker, owner of Ricker’s convenience store. “Most of the constituents in Indiana think they should be able to buy cold beer any place that has a license and they also want to be able to buy it on Sunday and they think that liquor stores should be able to sale whatever and not be so limited.”

The poll results come on the heels of a new commercial that Ricker’s released last week that makes light of cold beer sales in Indiana.

“This would be great with an ice-cold beer!” 

That’s the last line of the commercial promoting Ricker’s made-to-order food service area – recently known for finding a loop-hole in Indiana law that allows them sell cold beer.

Ricker’s began selling cold beer after installing a made-to-order food service area, which paved the way for the chain to obtain a restaurant license. 

During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers rushed to close the loophole. The new law will go into effect July 1. Ricker’s will be able to sell cold beer until their license expires in April 2018.

“We want to keep this issue before the public so that the legislature doesn’t kind of try and downplay it over time,” Ricker said.

IU Kelley School of Business Professor Mark Mayer said the company’s ad is working to influence public opinion in a “light-hearted way that fits the brand image.”

“Ricker’s has long used humor in its advertising, and this ad seems like a way to both reinforce a key marketing message, its food quality, but also to give a humorous jab at the controversy and perhaps the heavy-handed message in package stores’ advertising,” Mayer said.

Ricker agrees that, while the ad is meant to keep the topic out in front of the public, it was done in a way that was playful.

“The guy who is our spokesperson … is a comedian at heart and so he delivered it in a way that’s not like ‘why don’t we have cold beer’. It was in a playful way,” Ricker said.

Lawmakers have decided to take a closer look at the state’s alcohol laws through a two-year study committee.

“Our alcoholic beverage laws are antiquated at best and they are series of push-pulls between the various vendors whether you’re a convenience store or supermarket or whether you’re a liquor distributor or whether you’re a liquor store, everybody fights for their market share and nobody thinks about what’s the easiest thing for the consumer,” said political strategist Ann DeLaney, a Democrat.

Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the state’s alcohol laws “are clearly outdated.”

“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,” Bosma said in a statement. “Our goal is to appoint knowledgeable individuals free of ownership connections to the many alcohol industry participants and their lobbyists. Our leadership team is committed to addressing these issues and I look forward to the work ahead.”

Christina Ramey is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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