The Herald Bulletin

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May 3, 2010

Election Day alcohol sales ‘moral victory’

Liquor sales allowed for 1st time since law repealed

ANDERSON, Ind. — The repeal of a Prohibition-era Indiana law outlawing alcohol sales on Election Day might not have a major economic impact on local businesses, but it goes far in establishing fairness, a licensed beverage lobbyist said Monday.

Tuesday, Indiana bars, restaurants and stores will be allowed to sell alcohol from 7 a.m. until 3 a.m. Wednesday, the normal liquor sales hours in the state. A bill that passed the Indiana General Assembly this year removed language from the state’s legislative code that prohibited alcohol sales until the polls close on Election Day, usually at 6 p.m.

Indiana Licensed Beverage Association Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Don Marquardt said repealing the law made it fair for all establishments that sell alcohol, particularly in a case where one municipality is having a special referendum election and nearby locations are not.

“We’ve ran into a lot of issues where cities are having referendum votes, and one bar will have to close but the bar across the street can stay open,” Marquardt said. “There’s been a lot of confusion around the state when they have special elections.”

In a two-year study committee, legislators heard from state excise police who admitted the agency did not have enough officers to enforce Election Day policies around the state, Marquardt said.

The ILBA, of which Marquardt is the immediate past president, believes the Election Day beverage law was created years ago when taverns were used as the main meeting and polling places in towns, he said.

“Nowadays, when we have early voting and absentee voting and more and more counties are going to that, the trend will continue to go toward this early voting,” Marquardt said. “That alone kind of waters down the intent of the law.

“We’ve lobbied for this for a number of years. It’s an old, antiquated law that needed to be taken off the books.”

Marquardt did not predict a large increase in revenue for bars, restaurants and stores because of the repealed law. Amy Whitler, assistant director of food and beverage at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson, said the racino likely would see some increase in alcohol revenues by being allowed to serve it Tuesday.

“With Indiana lifting the ban on Election Day liquor sales, Hoosier Park Racing & Casino is sure to see additional liquor sale revenues,” she said. “Although we do not expect a busier than normal Tuesday in regards to liquor sales, we are prepared for an increase if needed.”

Marquardt, who also owns a restaurant and lounge in Angola, said there was no correlation between people drinking and creating problems at the polls on Election Day.

“The question is why, what purpose does it solve by having that bar closed,” he said. “There’s no logic behind the law.”

Most other states that have had similar laws have repealed them, Marquardt said. Three public opportunities for testimony in front of the study committee did not bring anyone speaking against repealing the law, he said.

“It’s not a huge money-making deal, but any kind of victory we get as bar owners in the state is a good thing,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to go down state and work with these legislators on something we want passed. It’s a moral victory.”

Contact Aleasha Sandley: 640-4805, aleasha.sandley@heraldbulletin.com.

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