If you've been frustrated by Indiana's ban on Sunday alcohol sales, there may be hope on the horizon.
A key lawmaker who has blocked such efforts in the past says he is drafting a bill that would allow grocery stores and other retailers to sell alcohol for carryout on Sundays.
“I think it’s time for Sunday sales," said Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee.
But the devil will be in the details. Big questions remain on what conditions the bill might place on Sunday sales. Alting said it is too early to get into the specifics of the legislation.
While bills pushing for Sunday sales have been filed in the past, Alting has never allowed them to get a hearing in his committee, the first stop in the Senate for most alcohol legislation.
Both Senate leader David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma said recently they, too, support Sunday sales.
“I have no problem with Sunday sales," said Long, R-Fort Wayne. "I look at it as a consumer rights issue. People, if you poll, I think they will tell you they prefer it.
Bosma, R-Indianapolis, described Sunday sales as the "low-hanging fruit" of alcohol law revisions that should be considered this year. "There’s no reason why we don’t have a Sunday sales provision," he said.
The discussion comes as a commission lawmakers created earlier this year is preparing to make recommendations for changes to Indiana's alcohol laws, which several lawmakers have called archaic.
Indiana's Prohibition-era restrictions on Sunday sales are some of the broadest in the country. They ban grocers, pharmacies, convenience stores and liquor stores from selling alcohol on Sundays.
Supermarkets and big box stores like Kroger and Walmart have been pushing to repeal the restrictions for years, arguing that consumers are inconvenienced by the laws.
On Friday, another unlikely source of support for Sunday sales came from the state's liquor store industry. Store owners have long argued that Sunday sales would hurt their business model, adding to their overhead costs without adding sales. They have also said that their existing customers would be tempted to pick up their booze at grocery stores on Sunday, a popular shopping day.
Their statement on Friday expressed a new view of the issue.
"Indiana's ban on the carryout sale of alcohol on Sundays is antiquated and impacts the small business package liquor stores by forcing them to close their doors one day per week," said Jon Sinder, chairman of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which represents the state's roughly 1,000 liquor stores.
But if the past is an indication, the liquor store industry's support is likely to come with demands that would make it more difficult for grocery stores and other retailers to sell alcohol throughout the week.
In 2015, liquor stores supported a Sunday sales bill, but only after winning changes that would require grocery stores to keep hard liquor behind the counter, and segregate beer and wine from other products in the store. Those changes caused grocery stores to turn against the bill, effectively killing the Sunday sales effort.
At present, Indiana allows the Sunday sale of alcohol for on-premise consumption in restaurants and bars and special events such as Colts games. But carryout sales at retailers such as groceries, pharmacies and convenience stores are prohibited, although there are exceptions made for places such as breweries, wineries and distilleries.
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