Have you ever wanted to run to the store on a Sunday for a six-pack of beer to watch football with the family or a bottle of wine for a dinner party? If you have, then you’ll know Indiana does not allow the sale of alcohol on Sunday, a policy that traces its roots to Prohibition.
Indiana House Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, was right to author a bill that would allow Hoosiers to buy alcoholic beverages on Sunday. The bill was recently amended to include stipulations that place incredible burdens on consumers and store owners and appear to benefit no one. Those stipulations come courtesy of package and liquor store lobbyists, and make so little sense it is baffling anyone would have proposed them.
Package and liquor stores claim to oppose Sunday sales because it would increase their cost of doing business (which is confusing given the additional revenue they would no doubt bring in). But the lobby knew better than simply to oppose such a common-sense law, so they decided they would amend the bill in a way that makes it so hard for other stores to sell alcohol on Sunday, they either won’t want to or won’t be able to afford to. Their amendments will make it harder for you too.
The amended bill will require grocery stores, drugstores and convenience stores to segregate their alcohol in one particular part of the store and for that alcohol ultimately be sold behind a counter.
It’s been projected that the cost of retrofitting stores could range anywhere from $80 million to $100 million. Furthermore, the designated area will have to be administered by a licensed alcohol beverage permit holder. Imagine the inconvenience, particularly around holidays.
What is so wrong about the current method of selling alcohol that justifies overhauling the entire system to add another day of sales? Have you ever had a problem Monday through Saturday? Lobbyists are great at finding solutions to problems that never existed, and this is no different. I offer up this simple rebuttal to their entire proposal: It makes no sense.
We aren’t asking for a lot, only the freedom to walk into a grocery or liquor store and purchase beer, wine or spirits any day of the week.
Full disclosure: I own a pub. I can sell beer and wine on Sunday. For all I know, my Sunday sales may decrease if consumers are able to buy beer at the grocery store. But I’m also someone who usually does their shopping on Sunday, and when I walk the aisles of Fort Wayne’s stores I am consistently shocked to see signs that say "Sorry, no alcohol sales on Sunday." I just don’t understand.
We need to embrace the future. This law, with its 100-year-old puritanical background, doesn’t serve us well today. Millennials and baby boomers alike want change and the freedom to purchase without excessive cost or burden. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has supported the notion of selling alcohol on Sunday, but Patrick Tamm, CEO of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, remains stuck in the 1920s. He argues that grocery stores are trying to deregulate alcohol sales.
It’s important to acknowledge that package and liquor stores are at a structural disadvantage against big-box retailers. The playing field is rarely level, and these smaller stores are in a fight for their own survival. However, the freedom of Hoosiers to purchase alcohol on any day of the week should not be a casualty of their fight.
Anthony Henry is owner of Deer Park Irish Pub in Fort Wayne and an instructor in IPFW's hospital management program. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.