INDIANAPOLIS — 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 restricts 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 of Indianapolis-area stores. "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 mind-set. He also said the bill could be a money maker, bringing in $10 million annually if it passes.
"The state of Indiana has said it's OK to consume alcohol on Sunday but they've picked who the winners are and who the losers are," he said. "I think that it's time we become more competitive. Competition is not a bad thing. The liquor stores don't want to compete."
Liquor store owners say competition isn't their only concern. They contend their stores are more heavily regulated than big-box retailers and argue that the package liquor industry helps keep alcohol out of the hands of minors.