Sunday Alcohol Sales Debate Begins

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(Image Courtesy: State of Indiana) (Image Courtesy: State of Indiana)

A short round of testimony Wednesday morning has kicked off the Sunday alcohol sales debate in the General Assembly. The majority of those speaking before the House Public Policy Committee support allowing the long-discussed change, including Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers Chairman Jon Sinder, who owns Indianapolis-based Crown Liquors. Sinder says an additional day of sales would cause some stores to close, but consumers are asking for it.

"We have evolved on this issue," Sinder said, referencing a shift from several years ago when the industry group opposed Sunday sales. "The fact of the matter is: we are retailers. Retailers are a consumer-driven marketplace and to the extent that we believe at this point that people want it more than they did three years ago and certainly more than ten years ago, the timing is now right."

Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking Director Lisa Hutcheson says her organization is against House Bill 1051, which would allow Sunday carryout sales at licensed package liquor, grocery, convenience and drug stores and restaurants, because of the potential increased accessibility to minors. "We are not prohibitionists," she said. "We know that it will continue to have a role in our society as it always has, but what role are we going to give it? The role of convenience beverage that is as accessible as milk or candy? The role of featured attraction as we continue to elevate beverage alcohol to family entertainment?"

Hutcheson also serves as vice president for policy and programs for ICRUD parent Mental Health America of Indiana and said figures from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention suggest the cost of underage drinking in Indiana is $1.3 billion annually. She asked that legislators include provisions in the bill such as a two-year impact study of Sunday sales on underage purchasing and consumption, impaired driving and alcohol-related crime; limited hours of sales; clerks selling alcohol be at least 21 and pass an annual server course; alcohol be kept in a separate area of the store and away from youth-related products; place limitations on marketing and promotional materials and alcohol on endcaps; increase required checks on alcohol sellers by state excise police; raising the excise tax by "a nickel a drink" to fund an abuse prevention and treatment program.

Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers Chairman Jon Sinder says store owners have changed their opinions on the matter in recent years.
Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking Director Lisa Hutcheson asked that legislators include several provisions in the bill.
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