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Cold Beer Proposal Freezes New Permits, Leaves Ricker's Permits Intact Only Through March 31

Jay Ricker: Bill "targets" his businesses, doesn't leave time for promised study of alcohol laws

Legislators are reviewing a proposal to stop other convenience stores from copying Ricker's and getting restaurant permits to sell carryout alcohol.

The latest draft leaves Ricker's permits for restaurant/convenience store combos in Sheridan and Columbus intact until they expire at year's end. They could extend their carryout beer privileges, but only till April 1.

Auburn Representative Ben Smaltz, House Republicans' negotiator on the bill, says the goal is to freeze the playing field until after next year's session, to give legislators all summer to study a more permanent solution. 

Ricker's owner Jay Ricker says if legislators pass the bill, he'll urge Governor Holcomb to veto it. He complains the bill specifically targets his business by limiting only permits issued since November, when he received the first of his two permits. Legislative leaders have maintained that while there was opposition to Indiana's laws on cold beer sales, there was no dispute about what the law was until the Ricker's permits. The proposed fix explicitly declares the law is intended to exclude convenience stores from carryout sales.

New applicants for carryout privileges would have to show that 60-percent of their alcohol sales are for consumption at the restaurant itself, a standard likely to exclude non-traditional restaurants like the Ricker's burrito eateries.

Ricker voluntarily stopped selling hard liquor in his stores, and says he won't resume -- he says he didn't realize at first that the permits allowed that as well. He also put on hold plans to apply for additional permits. But Ricker says he'd been led to believe he'd be able to keep his permits until the promised top-to-bottom review of alcohol laws was complete. He says the 11-month delay created by the bill isn't enough time for that kind of detailed study. 

And Ricker notes the study isn't explicitly mentioned in the bill. An alcohol study committee created last year still has a year to run, and Smaltz says that panel can simply expand the scope of its work.

Smaltz says House Republicans support the draft proposal, but says Demcorats and Senate Republicans are still studying it. Even if a bill does reach the floor, Bosma cautions it's unclear whether the votes are there to pass it. 

Jay Ricker (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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