Indiana libertarians hoping to revamp state liquor laws

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WANE) – As Indiana Democrats and Republicans get ready to study liquor laws, another party is hoping the debate will spark change heading into 2018.

This weekend, the Libertarian Party in Bartholomew and Johnson counties will host a “Drink In” at Ricker’s Gas Station in Columbus. Organizers hope the event will draw attention to what’s happened to the gas company over the past couple of months.

In November, Ricker’s received a restaurant liquor license after it opened a made-to-order food section. Because of this, the gas station was able to sell cold beer carryout.

Jeff Williams checks the stock in the beer cooler behind the counter in a Ricker’s convenience store in Sheridan, Ind., Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

“A lot of people are like, ‘How’d they find a loophole, around that? It’s a gas station, how are they selling cold beer,’” Columbus resident Dakota Kerns said.

But the excitement faded in April as Indiana lawmakers passed a bill to close the loophole. Ricker’s will be allowed to sell cold beer carryout until next year, but local Libertarian members don’t think that’s good enough.

“The state government moved the goal post on this specific business,” Bartholomew County Libertarian Party Vice Chair Clyde Myers said.

This is why the group is hosting the event inside the store.

“We’re just hoping everyone will come out and have a beer with us, and show their support for freedom of choice,” Myers said.

There’s been a lot of attention on the state’s liquor laws this week, and not just because of this upcoming “Drink In.”

On Monday, the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association released a study showing 70 percent of Hoosiers support cold beer sales, and another 65 percent want to see it sold on Sunday.

Numbers Myers said could give his county party a 2018 platform. “We’re hoping we can make them aware that most Hoosiers support freedom of choice,” Myers said. “That they support free, and fair and open competition.”

State lawmakers said they are aware, which is why they’re conducting a study. It’s expected to last a couple years.

Which could mean Myers might be having a lot more burritos and beer as he prepares to take a stand he never saw coming.

“No, I did not, but I’m all for it,” Myers said. “It’s going to be a good time.”

The county Libertarian event will take place at the Columbus gas station this Sunday at 3 p.m. As for state leaders, we’re expected to find out soon when they’ll begin their two year study looking at liquor laws.

Nick is WANE’s Indiana Chief Political Bureau reporter. Follow Nick Natario on Twitter at @NNatario.