The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Opinion

May 17, 2013

Alcohol sales rules lack consistency in Indiana

ANDERSON, Ind. — Two prominent Anderson-based businesses are aligned on different sides in a bitter battle over cold beer that recently spilled over into federal court.

On one side, Ricker convenience stores are part of a group that filed suit this week in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana for the right to sell cold beer. On the other, Keg-N-Bottle wants to keep cold beer out of convenience stores.

They both make compelling arguments. Ricker’s claims that Indiana’s law prohibiting convenience stores, groceries and pharmacies from selling cold beer is discriminatory and “irrational,” that it violates the state and federal constitution. Keg-N-Bottle owner Joel Hackleman argues, conversely, that convenience stores and groceries aren’t set up to offer the sort of obstacles to keep alcohol out of the hands of the under-aged that package liquor stores offer. Liquor store employees must be 21 and licensed to sell alcohol.

While Hackleman’s concerns are valid, in this case the concept of a free marketplace is the more important consideration. The inconsistencies in Indian’s laws regarding the sale of alcoholic drinks are manifold.

Why is it that convenience stores can sell cold wine but not cold beer? Why is it they can sell warm beer but not cold beer? Why is it that nobody can sell carry-out alcohol on Sundays?

Allowing convenience stories and groceries to sell cold beer would be a step toward a more consistent set of state liquor laws and would open up free competition. At the same time, convenience stores and groceries should be held to the same standards as package liquor stores to assure that sales aren’t made to those without legal adult ID.

Alcohol can be dangerous when it falls into the wrong hands. But it is legal to buy and sell, and the current limitations on convenience stores, groceries and pharmacies are unfair to the retailers and frustrating for consumers.

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