Alcohol decision belongs to consumer
Let the consumer decide. It’s a phrase we often repeat here when business issues collide with certain health or religious concerns.
We think the maxim should be followed concerning the carryout sale of alcohol on Sundays. Last week, an interim General Assembly study commission voted 7-4 to keep a ban on Sunday carryout sales. It also voted 11-0 to ensure only package liquor stores sell cold beer. In committee testimony, state Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, noted that Indiana is one of 14 states prohibiting Sunday carryout sales, and is one of three states prohibiting Sunday carryout sales while allowing sales by the drink. Hoosiers can buy beer by the cup at Indianapolis Colts’ games but they can’t go a few blocks away to a liquor store to buy cold beer — because that store cannot be open legally. Indiana, Boots noted, is the only state that allows drug and grocery stores to sell warm beer but not cold beer. Boots, it must be said, owns convenience stores that do not sell alcohol. In Indiana, package liquor stores and taverns have a monopoly on cold beer sales. Restaurants and sports arenas have one on Sunday sales.
It’s a confusing mess.
Indiana’s whole alcoholic beverage system of laws needs to be revamped. And that was our hope with the interim committee. But Indiana apparently will wait at least another year before catching up with surrounding states. Or would changing the laws be falling behind, morally and responsibly? Would we run into trouble with more underage sales, an increase in alcoholism or more liquor-related traffic accidents?
Indiana and Kentucky have the most conservative alcohol policies and the lowest number of traffic fatalities. Michigan and Wisconsin, with the most liberal policies, have the highest number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities, according to committee testimony. And in Indiana, 35 percent of the retail establishments have failed compliance checks for underage drinking. In 2006, an Indianapolis Star poll found that 50 percent of Indiana residents wanted to keep state laws that prevented the sale of most Sunday alcohol. Forty-three percent supported allowing more sales of beer, liquor and wine. At no point do we chide those who believe Sunday is a traditional day for religion, church services and staying at home to watch sports. Just look at all the Colts jerseys worn to church. And underage drinking and drunken driving are indeed serious problems throughout our state. But Hoosier consumers are in the middle of a political turf battle controlled by lobbyists pitting grocery stores against package stores; convenience stores against the local pub owner. With all the conflicting testimony, faith-based opinions and corporate cries, we tend to come to conclusions based on practicality and consumer choice. Open the sale of alcohol on Sundays to all licensed establishments and let the consumer decide.