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Why cold beer laws aren't changing in 2018: Both sides of the argument

Posted: 2:20 PM, Jan 18, 2018
Updated: 2018-01-18 15:08:59-05
The pros and cons of cold beer sales
The pros and cons of cold beer sales

INDIANAPOLIS -- Another year will go by without a change in Indiana's laws on cold beer. An Indiana Senate Committee voted down a proposal Wednesday to allow grocery stores, convenience stores, or drug stores to sell beer at any temperature with a 9-1 "No" vote.

But in an informal poll on the RTV6 Facebook page and Twitter accounts, almost 80 percent of 1,000 respondents said they supported the expansion of cold beer carryout sales. 

So, what gives? 

While general convenience to the average person is the driving argument behind the expansion of cold beer carryout sales, there's more to it than that.

Before the decisive vote Wednesday, supporters and opponents of the issue voiced a variety of concerns on all sides. Here were the main reasons laid out for and against the expansion of cold beer carryout sales:

FOR expansion: Indiana is the only state to monopolize cold beer

Jay Ricker, the owner of Ricker's gas station, found a legal loophole last year that allowed two of his gas stations to sell cold beer. He began his testimony with cheers from a watching crowd. 

Ricker said a statewide poll showed that 61 percent of Indiana consumers are in favor of cold beer in convenience and grocery stores. He also said Indiana is the only state to monopolize cold beer in the same way, even though nobody currently in the statehouse was involved.

Ricker said declining sales in fuel and tobacco are forcing his business to adapt to what the customers want, and what they want is cold beer.

AGAINST expansion: It could increase drunken driving

Sarah Ward, from Knightstown, Indiana, believes that selling cold beer in convenience stores and gas stations will lead to an uptick in drunken driving. 

"There are times when public safety concerns need to be weighed in consideration of profits," she said. "This is one of those times. To allow cold beer in convenience stores would greatly increase the number of people who are going to grab their gas, grab their cold beer and start drinking as they go down the highway... When I stop and get iced tea, I'm going to drink it as I go down the highway because I'm hot and thirsty."

FOR expansion: Drunken driving would happen regardless

Kelly McClure, the president of McClure Oil Corporation, said 26 of her 37 stores sell warm beer. She said a news report she saw listed Indiana's cold beer law as its most ridiculous law, calling it "embarrassing." 

She said most people drive to get cold beer as it is, whether that's to an out-of-state gas station or a liquor store, so there is no risk of an increase in drunken driving.

Sen. Phillip Boots, who authored the bill, said the law change wouldn't make more people drive drunk. 

"If you want to violate drunk driving laws, the majority of people who violate those laws are buying their alcohol in a tavern," Boots said. "They're buying cold beer, they're buying alcohol, whatever it is, they're drinking and driving at the same time. They're not buying their booze or beer at a convenience store or a grocery store. ... If you're an alcoholic and you want to consume alcohol, you can consume warm beer just as soon as cold beer."

AGAINST expansion: It could cause liquor stores to go out of business

Patrick Tamm and Jon Sinder, on behalf of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, said allowing cold beer in convenience stores would put many liquor stores out of business.

Snider said it would do "devastating economic harm" to the state's liquor stores. It would result in many liquor stores being forced to close.

"We would love to be able to change our business model, but it's been handed to us by the legislature and by regulatory framework," Tamm said.

FOR expansion: Don't protect liquor stores

Joe Lackey, of the Grocery and Convenience Store Association, said if the Indiana legislature is going to protect a business, it should be grocery stores.

"Several liquor stores have said 'If you pass this, we're going out of business,'" Lackey said. "I have to ask, which is more important?"

Lackey said the legislature shouldn't be involved, but if protection is involved, it should be with the group that provides food.

AGAINST expansion: It would lead to safety concerns

Captain Kevin Summers, of the Kokomo Police Department, said it is a "misguided policy" that will have a negative impact on the safety of Indiana's communities, like Kokomo.

He said alcohol attracts crime, and the proliferation of cold beer to convenience stores would make it more difficult for law enforcement to police the area.

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Ultimately, lawmakers on the committee decided the protections in place for liquor stores should remain, with these and other arguments under consideration. 

Even though the bill failed, the cold beer bill still made history. It was the first time a cold beer bill had been heard in the Indiana General Assembly. But the current law will stand. The only alcohol available to purchase cold in a grocery store is wine and cider, for at least another year, anyway: Sen. Boots alluded to pushing the bill forward so he "doesn't have to bring this up every year."

What do you think? Now that you know the key arguments, should cold beer sales be expanded in Indiana? Weigh in below:

Watch the full hearing: 

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