Federal court upholds Indiana’s limits on cold beer sales

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s convenience store association will end its court challenge to the state law limiting the sale of cold beer to liquor stores and renew its push in the Legislature for changes to alcohol rules, the group’s director said Tuesday.

A federal appeals court ruling released Monday rejected arguments from the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association that the state law was unconstitutional by treating grocery and convenience stores differently than liquor stores.

The unanimous decision from a three-judge panel in Chicago upheld a decision last year by an Indianapolis federal judge, who ruled expanding the sale of cold beer beyond liquor stores, taverns and restaurants would make Indiana’s alcoholic beverage laws “tougher to enforce” by creating many more outlets at which minors could buy cold beer.

The lawsuit argued Indiana’s law was irrational and wrongly favored one group of retailers over others.

The appeals court ruled that the state had a legitimate goal of restricting where cold beer can be sold.

“The association’s policy arguments for allowing cold-beer sales by grocery and convenience stores are matters for the Indiana legislature, not the federal judiciary,” the decision said.

Scott Imus, executive director of the Indiana convenience store group, said the organization knew it would be difficult to win a court challenge to the law.

“Hopefully it will go back to the Legislature and we will open up the market in a safe and controlled manner and end the protectionism that’s out there for roughly 900 liquor store owners,” he said.

Liquor store owners have maintained that grocery and convenience stores don’t face the same state restrictions prohibiting those younger than 21 from entering and the requirement to hire clerks with state liquor licenses.

Indiana is like other states in having policy goals of controlling the distribution of alcohol, said Patrick Tamm, president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers.

“We are pleased that the court has recognized that Indiana’s package stores must operate under restrictive guidelines and legislatively mandated business models,” Tamm said. “The package store industry is a product of a legislature that enacted sound public policy in restricting alcohol sales.”

Several unsuccessful attempts have been made in recent years to have Indiana lawmakers lift both the cold beer sales restrictions and the state’s 80-year-old ban on Sunday carry-out alcohol sales.

Imus said his group would focus on a new push to legalize Sunday alcohol sales during the legislative session that starts in early January.

“Attention will turn back to the Legislature and working with others in trying to get them to end some of the arcane laws that have been on the books since Prohibition,” he said.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments are closed.