Senate committee says no to cold beer

By Emily Ketterer
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS–Hoosiers should expect to wait just a little longer before they can purchase cold beer outside of liquor stores.

The Senate Public Policy Committee voted 9-1 against Senate Bill 26, which would have permitted retailers to sell cold beer. Under current Indiana state law, convenience stores can sell warm beer but selling the beverage cold has been left to the liquor stores.

Jay Ricker, owner of Ricker’s convenience store, started the cold beer discussion last year when two of his stores sold cold beer under a restaurant permit. Ricker said he was disappointed with the bill’s outcome, but said he was grateful for the “good, healthy” discussion on the issue, since this was the first time cold beer sales had been heard by a committee.

Convenince store ownerJay Ricker testified in favor of cold beer sales. Photo by John Ward, TheStatehouseFile.com

The committee listened to three hours of testimony from both sides of the issue. With every argument, a counter-argument rose, allowing people from each side to make their cases.

Jon Sinder, owner of Crown Liquors, said a vote to expand cold beer sales is a vote for gas stations to put liquor stores out of business.

“Allowing expansion of cold beer is pulling the rug from underneath us,” Sinder said.

While Ricker said the added sale of cold beer would help his sales, he said selling cold beer is not just about making money and competing with liquor stores.

“Yeah if I get to sell cold beer, it will help me—bottom line—but it’s the consumers in Indiana. Everybody seems to ignore them,” Ricker said. “I want what my consumers want and my consumers want cold beer.”

Sarah Ward, of Knightstown, said public safety needs to outweigh profit from cold beer sales.

Sarah Ward testified against Senate Bill 26. The Public Policy Committee met Wednesday and decided to deny the motion to sell cold beer at convenience stores. Photo by John Ward, TheStatehouseFile.com

“Allowing cold beer in convenience stores is going to greatly increase the number of people who are going to grab their gas, grab their cold beer and start drinking as they go down the highway,” Ward said.

However, Kelly McClure, owner of McClure Oil convenience stores, said customers drive to liquor stores just as they would drive to convenience stores.

“Just because a vehicle is used to get the customer to an outlet where cold beer or wine can be purchased does not mean there’s more urge to drink and drive,” McClure said. “If this were the case, then the bill you should be introducing is one that requires only walking or bike riding to liquor stores.”

Jay Singh is an owner of both convenience and liquor stores. Singh said cold beer remains safer when sold in the liquor stores.

“In convenience stores, all operations are potential to market, and we do market to minors, we do market to people who want candy,” Singh said. “Should the state allow cold beer to be sold in convenience stores and gas stations, we would be forced to sell to remain competitive.”

Representing the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, Matt Norse presented data to lawmakers Wednesday to prove that liquor stores are more likely to sell to minors than convenience stores.

Norse specifically referred to the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission’s survey of alcohol compliance, where excise police use minors under their direct supervision to purchase alcohol from various locations.

“Convenience stores failed on roughly five percent of those attempts. Liquor stores, meanwhile, failed at 8.5 percent,” Norse said.

Ricker said he and other supporters of cold beer sales will be back next year to push for similar legislation.

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

 

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