Bad ‘Sunday Sales’ Bill: Hoosier Businesses and Consumers Line Up in Opposition

BOrganizations representing Hoosier consumers and businesses today announced strong opposition to House Bill 1624 (Sale of Alcoholic Beverages) citing concerns that the legislation as amended is anti-consumer and anti-business.

“This issue has always been about bringing greater convenience and choice to consumers,” said Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council. “Hoosiers believe that a product sold responsibly six days a week should be able to be sold on the seventh day. Instead of focusing on that, this amendment has turned this legislation into a debate about increasing restrictions on alcohol for consumers.”

The organizations stated that House Bill 1624 would negatively impact consumer choice and convenience regarding the ability to purchase alcohol at drug, grocery and convenience stores. Current language in the bill would place a mandatory ban on self-service shopping for distilled spirits at grocery and drug stores by requiring those stores to build a separate area to keep distilled spirits away from customers behind a counter. The Indiana Retail Council estimates that costs incurred by drug and grocery stores to retrofit each store to accommodate these new restrictions would exceed $100 million.

“The House took a bill intended to allow drug, convenience and grocery stores to sell alcohol on Sunday, the second-busiest shopping day of the week and modified it significantly – to shield package liquor stores from competition,” said Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. “Hoosiers wanted more convenience but instead, the Indiana House of Representatives is on the verge of making their shopping less convenient every day of the week.”

The original version of HB 1624 allowed for carryout sales of alcohol at retail stores on Sunday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and repealed an existing restriction which limits liquor stores ability to sell commodities. The repeal of the commodity restriction would enable liquor stores to sell nearly any product that a grocery store is able to sell, therefore better leveling the field of competition among retailers.

The current version of that bill places restrictions on the ability of consumers to purchase alcohol at drug and grocery stores by requiring that all distilled spirits be placed in a segregated area within the store in order to regulate the purchase. The amendment contains additional restrictions including limits on where beer and wine can be displayed in drug, grocery and convenience stores and new barriers on the “checkout process” at drug, grocery and convenience stores.

House Bill 1624 places no additional restrictions on package liquor stores.

“Everybody loses but liquor stores. Customers should decide who wins and loses in the marketplace – not the House of Representatives,” said Brinegar. “It’s time to go back to the drawing board for a new bill that would be truly pro-consumer and pro-business and not simply cater to the package stores interests once again.”

An amendment offered by State Rep. Jud McMillin would have removed the requirement on grocery and drug stores to retrofit their stores and place spirits away from customer behind a counter was defeated last week 47-45.

In the original and amended versions of the bill, liquor store owners continue to retain the monopoly on selling cold beer. The current version of HB 1624 will extend the liquor store monopoly to include self-service of liquor (the ability for a customer walk down an aisle to select products for purchase on their own before making a purchase at the register).

Indiana is the only state that allows alcohol sales on Sunday by the drink at bars, restaurants, sporting events and concerts yet prohibits the safer option of carryout sales for consumption at home. Indiana’s neighboring states all permit Sunday sales (IL, KY, MI, and OH).

Under current law, retailers are currently permitted to sell carryout alcohol from 7 a.m.-3 a.m. the following day (prevailing local time) Monday-Saturday. The bill does not change current laws allowing microbreweries and farm wineries to sell carryout alcohol on Sunday.