Ricker’s cold beer amendment moves forward in House

By Dustin Beach

 INDIANAPOLIS – An amendment that would allow Ricker’s and other stores to continue to sell cold beer moved through the House Public Policy Committee Monday.

An amendment to Senate Bill 358 offered by Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, would permit stores like Ricker’s to continue to sell cold carry-out liquor until their current permit expires.

In the future, stores wanting to sell cold carryout alcohol would need 30 percent of their alcohol sales come from on-site consumption.

The original intent of SB 358 would 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.

The debate on this bill began when lawmakers discovered Ricker’s gas stations had started selling made-to-order Mexican food and had obtained a restaurant license, allowing the convenience store to sell cold carryout alcohol.

Even staunch supporters of the amendment acknowledged that this practice needs to stop and lawmakers need to find a uniform system for alcohol distribution permits.

“I think you’re looking at least two years of hard work to get this in a place where you reach a true reform,” said Rep. Matthew Lehman, R-Berne.

Lehman referred to a nail salon that has permit to sell wine. Like Ricker’s, the nail salon has obtained a restaurant license because no other permit exists.

“Do we want a nail salon to have wine? I’m okay with that, but we don’t have a permit for that,” Lehman said. “So we pigeonhole them into restaurants, so the permitting is an issue.”

Lehman said he supported the amendment.

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, provided a visual aide on just how easy it was to obtain cold alcohol, putting a six-pack of beer he purchased from his local Ricker’s on the desk in front of his fellow committee members. Lucas acknowledged he enjoyed the convenience of being able to go to a store like Ricker’s to get alcohol.

Opponents argued in support of stores who already had a license, but will lose them when they expire due to the rule change.

“I cannot come in here in good name and suggest that we are going to change the rules on someone who followed every rule, and they made the investment that they made,” said Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson.

A similar bill is currently moving through the Senate.

The amended bill was passed out of committee 8-4 and will now head to full House for consideration.

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

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