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Sunday Sales Opposition Melts

Senate committee unanimously endorses repeal of century-old "blue law"; House committee to vote next week

(INDIANAPOLIS) - It's looking like you may be able to buy alcohol on Sunday this summer.

A Senate committee has unanimously endorsed lifting the ban on Sunday sales, with a vote in the full Senate possible next week. A House committee will vote next week on its own version of the bill.

Liquor stores have fought Sunday sales for years, predicting as many as a quarter of Indiana liquor stores could go out of business. But they did an about-face last fall to join supermarkets in supporting it, while supermarkets abandoned their push to be allowed to sell beer cold.

Crown Liquors' John Sinder, the chairman of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, says the business is consumer-driven, and liquor store customers said they wanted to be able to purchase alcohol any day of the week.

With the package stores supporting the change, the only testimony against it at a House committee hearing came from the Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking. The organization wants the bill to include a requirement that alcohol and alcohol promotions be kept in their own section of the store. The group also wants a nickel increase in the excise tax to pay for more staff and better technology for excise police, a step recommended by an alcohol study committee.

House Public Policy Chairman Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn), the bill's author, says the coalition is correct in predicting expanded alcohol access will lead to increases in drunken driving and other alcohol-related crimes. He says the bill limits Sunday sales to noon-to-eight p-m, so the state can assess those impacts before widening the sales window any further. 

If passed, the bill would take effect in July.

Convenience stores didn't testify on the bill, but are continuing their pursuit of cold-beer sales despite the supermarkets' withdrawal of support. A Senate committee will consider that bill next week.

(Photo: vladans/Thinkstock)

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