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General Assembly

Push made for Sunday alcohol sales

– The last state in the nation to bar retail alcohol sales on Sundays is making a push to lift the restriction, but strong opposition from liquor stores could leave Indiana’s effort as flat as an open bottle of champagne.

Two bills introduced early in this legislative session aim to broaden a state law that currently limits Sunday alcohol sales to restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries.

Indiana’s ban on retail alcohol sales dates back to Prohibition. The sponsor of one bill said allowing Sunday carryout alcohol sales would bring in more tax revenue for the state, but liquor store owners contend their overhead costs would increase in order to staff their stores an extra day.

Liquor store owners also argue that allowing Sunday sales would essentially spread out six days’ worth of sales over seven days and worry that more people would buy alcohol while shopping at grocery stores instead of making a trip to a liquor store.

“This state not allowing Sunday sales has kept us in business,” said Jon Sinder, co-owner of Crown Liquors, a chain in the Indianapolis area. “In other states, you can’t buy spirits at big-box retailers.”

But Republican Sen. Phil Boots of Crawfordsville, who authored the Senate bill, said it’s time for Indiana to adopt a free-enterprise mindset. He also said the bill could be a money maker, bringing in $10 million annually.

Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, who authored the House bill, argues that Indiana’s current law is less responsible because it allows for Sunday carryout sales at restaurants.

“How silly is that that we allow somebody to drink and drive home but we don’t allow somebody responsible to buy that alcohol on Sunday to take it home and enjoy it?” he said.

Indiana has loosened its alcohol laws to promote tourism and economic development, Boots said. In 2010, lawmakers approved a bill that allows microbreweries to sell beer for carryout on Sundays. But the effort to lift the Sunday sales ban has failed in recent years. Grocery stores hope 2013 is different, as Sundays are typically the week’s second-biggest shopping day.

Kroger spokesman John Elliott said the ban is “a customer service problem.”

“Every single Sunday, we’ve got customers who are disappointed that they cannot purchase this product. This is particularly a challenge in communities that have a heavy concentration of factory or shift workers,” he said. “There are households that can only shop on Sunday.”

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