Buying alcohol on Sunday has been illegal in Indiana since Prohibition — but that might be about to change.
As of Tuesday, both the House and the Senate approved two identical legislative measures that would repeal the ban of Sunday alcohol sales. The bills passed with a large majority in both the House (87-10) and the Senate (39-10).
The bills will now be sent to the opposite chamber for approval. If they are passed, lawmakers will choose one of the bills — either Senate Bill 1 or House Bill 1051 — to be sent to Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Holcomb previously stated that he supports changing the state’s alcohol laws. Both bills would allow the sale of alcohol from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays in liquor stores, drug stores, grocery stores and convenience stores. Attempts to extend these hours were defeated in both chambers.
Previous attempts to legalize Sunday sales failed to receive a hearing in the Senate. But this time, the support of two important groups helped to push the measure forward.
An unlikely alliance between big box stores, such as grocery stores, and the powerful liquor lobby was forged late last year. The liquor store group, known as the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, has previously been opposed to Sunday sales, while big box stores have been in favor of it.
“[Sunday sales] are a popular thing,” said Ball State political science professor Sean Hildebrand. “The hold-up was always on the other side — the business side. The liquor stores were kind of apprehensive about opening the extra day.”
This apprehension stems from a fear of increased competition from retailers and convenience stores on weekends.
“They think, ‘Why would people come into liquor stores as much on weekends, when you could go to Meijer and get it,’” Hildebrand said. “And you know if you think about it from their perspective, that’s pretty reasonable.”
A separate bill to allow the sale of cold beer in convenience stores and grocery stores was defeated earlier this month. The fate of these bills reflects a deal made between big box stores and the liquor store lobby last fall, which proposed to legalize Sunday alcohol sales and halt expansion of cold beer sales.
“It’s like a trade off, right? So they give us Sunday sales, at least appease some of the public demand for this, we won’t push cold beer as much,” Hildebrand said. “Without the committee votes, cold beer can’t really get anywhere.”
State Sen. Ron Alting (R-Tippecanoe), who authored the bill, has identified the support of liquor stores and big box stores as important influences in the success of the bill. Alting has received more than $90,000 in campaign contributions from liquor stores since 2011.
The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers called Senate Bill 1 “a landmark piece of legislation,” saying that it is “eager to continue working directly with legislators to make sure that this bill is ultimately signed by the governor and becomes law.”
Polling by both the Bowen Center for Public Affairs and Fabrizio, Lee and Associates show strong public support for both the sale of cold beers and Sunday alcohol sales, with approval at around 60 percent.
“I feel like the sale of alcohol being limited to certain hours doesn’t make logical sense to me,” said Isaac Mitchell, a sophomore political science major at Ball State. “In most states, you can purchase alcohol 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That just seems to be the most logical way forward.”
Erin Goff, a sophomore English education major at Ball State said the alcohol laws don’t align with modern beliefs.
“It seems like something that’s very old fashioned,” Goff said. “It mandates something that’s a belief of some people that they are welcome to hold, but it doesn’t mean that everyone else should be held to that same level.”
Indiana is one of the 12 remaining states to adhere to the Prohibition-era Blue Law banning Sunday alcohol sales.
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