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Ricker's Chairman: Legislators Should Abandon Effort to Restrict Alcohol Permits

Ricker endorses proposed study of alcohol laws, but says there's not enough time to properly craft temporary limits

The chairman of Ricker's Convenience Stores contends legislators are painting themselves into a corner in trying to revise Indiana alcohol laws on the fly.

Ricker's has touched off a statehouse drama by turning its over-the-counter burrito business into full-blown restaurants at stores in Sheridan and Columbus, and using that status to land a state permit to sell carryout cold beer. Legislative leaders have accused the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission of overturning decades of legal and legislative precedent in granting the permits, and are scrambling to temporarily block any further permits for nontraditional "restaurants" to buy time for an in-depth study of alcohol laws House Speaker Brian Bosma calls "antiquated."

Ricker's chairman Jay Ricker says he's offered to limit alcohol sales at his stores to beer and forgo seeking additional permits if legislators commit to a full and public study of those laws. But he argues there will be unintended consequences if legislators try to put together a temporary halt to nontraditional permits while that study is in progress. Legislators have already fixed one bug which could have stopped upscale wine shops from selling wine. Ricker says the latest version could deny permits to some traditional restaurants.

Bosma says the bill will be tweaked further, but says he believes the House has found an appropriate formula, requiring restaurants who want to sell carryout to draw at least 30-percent of their sales from dine-in alcohol. 

Bosma says if legislators don't intervene, the new interpretation would make five-thousand stores eligible overnight to sell cold beer for carryout.

Ricker argues new licenses would still be limited by laws which make a fixed number of permits available in each county. He says it makes sense to limit liquor sales to liquor stores, but says anyone else should be able to sell wine or cold beer.

The House will vote on the bill Thursday. It'll then be up to the Senate to decide whether to accept that version or negotiate further changes.

A Ricker's food truck handed out burritos at the statehouse Tuesday to publicize the restaurant business nestled inside two of the chain's convenience stores. (Photo: Eric Berman)

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