Ricker: ‘Targeted’ by legislative compromise on cold-beer sales

By Dustin Beach

INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers have come to a conclusion on the proposed “cold-beer sales” bill, but not everyone is relieved to see the finish line.

“It looks very targeted to us when you look at all the exceptions,” said Jay Ricker, owner of Ricker’s convenience stores.

House Bill 1496, authored by Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, was originally intended to allow a minor on the grounds of a winery if a parent or guardian is present. The bill also would allow a winery or brewer to employ a family member who is still a minor.

But changes made to the bill regarding who can sell cold-beer are the biggest concern Ricker.

The debate heated up with just a few weeks left in the 2017 legislative session, leaving Ricker’s at the center of the debate when it was discovered they had obtained a restaurant license by selling made-to-order Tex-Mex food. The license also allowed them to sell cold, carry-out beer.

In changes revealed Thursday, lawmakers have opted to grandfather in stores that obtained a license to sell cold-beer before November 1, 2016 and allow them to continue selling, unless they sell their permit or change addresses.

However, they have advised the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, who issues the permits, to only extend the permits for stores like Ricker’s who obtained a license after November 1 until April 1, 2018.

“They’re going to yank our licenses away from us come early next year,” said Ricker.

Ricker felt since his company had followed all the rules in place, he should be allowed to keep his license.

“The Constitution says once you’ve got a legally obtained license, they really shouldn’t take it away from you,” he said.

Smaltz said he felt this compromise was what was best for everyone, including Jay Ricker.

“The right thing for Jay Ricker should not be the thing that pleases Jay Ricker the most,” he said. “It should be what is the right policy.”

Smaltz added he felt Ricker should be pleased he is allowed to sell cold-beer, even if it is for a short amount of time.

“This guy right here, wants him to stop selling it today,” Smaltz said pointing to himself. “I’m not getting everything. But I’m not running around the basement. I’m not upset about it. I’m just trying to do the right thing for everybody.”

Statehouse reporters traditionally work out of small offices in the basement.

However, both Smaltz and Ricker agreed a change needs to be made to the state’s alcohol code with Ricker saying it needs to be “substantially revised” and Smaltz saying the code need a “haircut.”

The proposed changes to HB 1496 will need to voted on by both the House and the Senate in the coming days before the legislation can head to the governor’s desk.

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

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