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Unlike Virginia where cold beer can be sold by convenience, grocery and drug stores, a federal court ruling will continue the monopoly Indiana liquor stores have on the sale of cold beer.

Ruling won’t end cold-beer sales fight

You could hear the collective sigh of disappointment and frustration that rippled throughout Indiana recently when a federal court decided not to overturn an archaic law that regulates the sale of beer based on temperature. The court had an opportunity to end the monopoly that liquor stores have over the cold beer market that limits consumer choice, competition in the market and growth of our state’s economy.

The court ruled that expanding the sale of cold beer to convenience, grocery and drug stores would lead to additional chances for minors to purchase beer. The truth is, among retailers, liquor stores are the worst offenders when it comes to the sale of alcohol to minors.

Since 2005, the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission’s monthly violations reports have shown that restaurants and bars were responsible for 60 percent of the violations. Liquor stores have the second worst record selling to minors, with 20 percent of the violations. Grocery, convenience and drug stores were in violation in only 16 percent of the cases cited when it comes to selling to minors.

It is clear that convenience, grocery and drug stores perform better than liquor stores when it comes to limiting the sale of alcohol to minors. This comes to no surprise to our members, who view holding a permit to sell alcohol as a privilege.

Convenience stores as well as grocery and drug stores have invested in employee training programs and technologies to ensure that alcohol does not end up in the hands of our children at the point of purchase.

Our lawsuit was about creating a fair environment for healthy competition among all retailers and providing greater convenience for Hoosier shoppers, while maintaining a responsible regulatory environment. Instead, we are stuck with an antiquated law that protects the special interests of one class of retailer over another.

We hear the frustration from our customers every day. They are tired of having limited choices on where they can buy their beer cold. This is especially true in some of our larger cities, such as Bloomington or Columbus, where a single business owner dominates the entire cold beer market. Consumers are also tired of paying the surcharges that liquor stores in our state apply to cold beer.

The negative impact of this law on our businesses and the consumers they serve is obvious. Few convenience store owners are willing to build new stores in Indiana when those same investment dollars could be spent in neighboring states where their stores can fully serve the needs of their customers. This unreasonable law has also cost Indiana millions of investment dollars and thousands of jobs. Our association will continue to fight for fair alcohol sales in Indiana. It was in 1963 that an unelected commission unfairly granted, for the first time, liquor store owners the sole right to sell cold beer at retail. History shows a constantly changing regulatory environment over cold beer.

How long will it take for Indiana to modernize its alcohol laws? When will our state join the rest of the country and lift ridiculous restrictions on the sale of beer based on temperature?

Scot Imus is executive director of the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. He wrote this for Indiana newspapers.