Legislative Testimony: Sunday Alcohol Sales


BThe Indiana Chamber’s Cam Carter testified today in support of Sunday liquor sales, but opposition to the amended House Bill 1624 by Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte).

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce supports the retail sale of alcoholic beverages for carryout on Sunday – for ALL classes of licensed retailers. We believe this would improve Indiana’s business climate and be a big win for consumers who want to see this modest and common sense change to existing law. A law that has remained on the books for far too long. A debate, in our estimation, that has gone on for far too long – and we are not alone in this opinion. Polling shows a growing majority of Hoosiers want this change.

You have the power – and the responsibility – to bring this change about by passing Sunday sales. However, to do so, you must craft a compromise between the liquor stores who have fought this change year after year after year, and other retailers, “big box” or otherwise, who have sought this change for just as long.

We supported the introduced version of HB 1624 and still do. We were encouraged when we heard rumors about a “compromise” on this issue; indeed one media outlet reported that a “compromise” had been reached. We began to rejoice.

But, then we saw the chairman’s amendment and we knew that no such compromise had been reached. Indeed, we were not invited to a negotiation. A negotiation between two liquor stores or their lobbyists is not a compromise.

To have a true compromise, you have to have two sides agree on something. Yet, the two sides on this issue agree on nothing. In fact, their roles have reversed since the introduction of the amendment with liquor stores now quoted in the media as supporting it and historical supporters of Sunday sales opposing it.

Why this sudden role reversal? Sometimes to ask a question is to answer it. So, with all due respect, the amendment under consideration today falls short of being a good faith effort at a workable compromise. It is objectively one-sided with all of the burdens placed on one class of alcohol retailer to their competitive disadvantage. And, that class is every single retailer that is NOT a package liquor store.

Under the amendment, liquor stores change nothing about their business model except they can now open on Sunday, if they choose. Their competitors? They have new, unacceptable regulations placed upon their stores, their personnel, and most importantly their customers.

Anyone with any familiarity with the Sunday sales issue had to know that this amendment would be unacceptable. The cost of retrofitting retail stores alone will run to at least $50-$60 million by conservative estimates and will affect all non-liquor store retailers large or small, big box or mom-and-pop. Some may be unable to comply with the provisions of this amendment at all.

Retrofitting is only the beginning of the economic costs represented by this amendment. Consumers will not stand for turning back the clock some 40-50 years and moving distilled spirits back “behind the counter”; that model of retailing can be seen at the Hook’s Museum and that is rightly where it belongs – in a museum.

Today’s consumers will revolt at being forced by you, elected members of the Indiana General Assembly, to go to “Tony with the name tag” at a separate counter or checkout lane, to then ask for a specific type of alcohol, a specific brand of alcohol and a specific bottle size.

To what end, one may ask, are lawmakers putting me through this when all I want is a little rum to mix with my lime and Coke? And, this new, government-imposed restriction will hassle consumers not just on Sunday, but every single day of the week.

Consumers will be needlessly inconvenienced and they will rebel. Just a couple of years ago they wanted your heads on pikes for carding them if they looked under the age of 40! Remember that? Passed in one session, repealed the next. Total run time: less than a year.

Do you think they will accept the serial inconveniences in this amendment? No, they will not. There will be a backlash, deservedly so, and it won’t be aimed at the businesses selling alcohol.

This is not the commonsense reform that Hoosiers are asking for. It is concierge legislating for the liquor store lobby. No one here is fooled by this so-called “compromise”, and here’s the trick box you’ve placed yourselves in by trying to place advocates of Sunday sales in a similar box:

With talk of a “compromise,” the public now EXPECTS you to deliver on Sunday sales. They’ve been reading about it for months now and, suddenly, a (so-called) compromise is here! The public doesn’t do nuance and they could care less about the machinations inside this building or the welfare of lobbyists, liquor store owners or this or that grocery store chain.

All they want is to be able to conveniently buy alcohol on Sunday like residents of other states do. It is not an unreasonable expectation. But, this is an unreasonable amendment that places unreasonable burdens on consumers.

With that, I’ll conclude the Indiana Chamber’s support of Sunday sales but opposition to the bill as amended.

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