In booming Bargersville, business alcohol licenses are tough to grab

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. -- A once-quiet Johnson County town is now booming with new residents, but its restaurant scene is having trouble keeping up, thanks to a limit of alcohol permits in the area.

The State of Indiana limits the number of alcohol permits allowed for a certain city or area. That quota is determined by the city's population, which won't officially change until the 2020 census. If the quota of alcohol permits for a certain city is full, a new business wouldn't be allowed to sell alcohol there.

This is a problem for Bargersville, a Johnson County town southwest of Greenwood. Once a sleepy agricultural suburb, Bargersville is about to see a boom of new residents. It has a population of about 6,000 right now, but more than 1,000 new lots for homes have been recently approved.

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But there are just three "three-way" licenses available in Bargersville, meaning liquor, beer and wine are able to be sold just three restaurants in the town.

The owners of Greek's Pizzeria and Tapp Room had planned to open their second location in Bargersville.

"It was appealing for us. It was kind of a little bit out of pocket where there wasn't much activity," said Michael Harvey, Greek's owner.

But there were no permits available to sell beer, wine and liquor in Bargersville, so Greek's will open in Greenwood where they can sell beer and wine.

Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers says more alcohol permits are needed to clear the way for economic development.

"It's just stifling to think of. It'll stop progress in it's tracks," said Mayor Myers.

Opponents of increasing the number of permits in communities like Greenwood and Bargersville say it amounts to an expansion of alcohol.

A bill proposed by Ind. State Sen. Jack Sandlin (R-District 36) would seek to let Bargersville's restaurant and nightlife scene grow. The bill would allow for five more three-way permits to be distributed in Bargersville.

If a city's quota is full, the business isn't completely out of luck. Liquor licenses can be transferred between businesses. But they aren't simply transferred, they're sold -- sometimes, on Craigslist. 

Right now on Craigslist, there are a handful of liquor licenses available for different areas. The cost to purchase one ranges from $40,000-$130,000, depending on the type and the area.

Sandlin's bill would also increase the number of permits in Martinsville, Munster, and Greenwood.

The following is the alcohol license quotas and number issued for Bargersville, Greenwood, Martinsville and Indianapolis, via the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission.

Bargersville:

  • One Way Quota: 3 (selling beer)
  • One Way Issued: 3
  • Two Way Quota: 3 (selling wine and beer)
  • Two Way Issued: 3
  • Three Way Quota: 3 (selling liquor, wine and beer)
  • Three Way Issued: 3

Greenwood:

  • One Way Quota: 34
  • One Way Issued: 2
  • Two Way Quota: 34
  • Two Way Issued: 21
  • Three Way Quota: 34
  • Three Way Issued: 34

Martinsville:

  • One Way Quota: 8
  • One Way Issued: 2
  • Two Way Quota: 8
  • Two Way Issued: 2
  • Three Way Quota: 8
  • Three Way Issued: 8

Indianapolis:

  • One Way Quota: 416
  • One Way Issued: 39
  • Two Way Quota: 416
  • Two Way Issued: 271
  • Three Way Quota: 416
  • Three Way Issued: 414

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