The Indiana House Rules Committee has approved an amended bill concerning what some at the Statehouse have called a loophole in the state’s cold beer sales restrictions. Anderson-based Ricker Oil Co. received permits for carryout cold beer at two "sit-down" restaurants connected to convenience stores. If approved by the full House and signed by Governor Eric Holcomb, only retailers with 30 percent of revenue from alcohol sales would be able to sell cold beer for carryout. In an interview last week on Inside INdiana Business Television, Founder Jay Ricker said the issue cropped up because package liquor store lobbyists "jealously guard" their ability to sell cold beer.
Ricker’s has received Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission approval to sell cold beer through restaurants located at its Columbus and Sheridan convenience store locations, but several legislators see what the company has done as sidestepping state policies that only allow cold beer sales in restaurants and package liquor stores. The amendment to Senate Bill 358 would allow Ricker Oil Co. to continue selling cold beer through the duration of its permit, which runs out at the end of the year.
Jay Ricker told Inside INdiana Business in a phone interview Monday "I’m disappointed and I’m frustrated" by the committee’s decision. He says the General Assembly is "kicking the can down the road" on the main issue, which is updating what he characterizes as outdated alcohol sales laws. "The legislature should be the will of the people and they’re not listening to their constituents," Ricker said. He argues customers want to buy cold beer in places other than package stores and restaurants and they want to be able to buy alcohol on Sunday, which is also not permitted under Indiana law.
Ricker is also calling for a summer study committee on the matter, which is currently not included in the bill or the amendment. He adds that he is fine if legislators "take their time" and come up with a broader solution to what he says are regulations catering to a "legalized monopoly" controlled by the liquor store lobby.
During discussion Monday in the Rules Committee, Representative Terri Austin (D-36) said it seems "incredibly unfair" that Ricker’s will have to make additional changes to the restaurant model it has already invested in, despite clearing all legal hurdles. She voted against the bill and contends Ricker’s should be allowed to continue selling cold beer under its permit "until we finish our work."
Committee Chair Ben Smaltz (R-32) says the issue raised by Ricker’s selling cold beer goes against regulations adhered to over the years by Republicans and Democrats "that convenience stores shall not sell cold beer carryout. That is a policy issue." He agrees Ricker’s legally cleared the proper hurdles, but to the question of whether this type of situation worked out by Ricker’s should continue, Smaltz said "I do believe that they’ve clearly failed a character test for the type of business that should be allowed based on long-standing policy by the General Assembly."
Ricker says if the current legislation is passed, his Columbus and Sheridan stores would not meet the 30 percent sales threshold and would not be able to receive a new license.
Committee Chair Ben Smaltz (R-32) says the issue raised by Ricker’s selling cold beer goes against regulations adhered to over the years by Republicans and Democrats.
Representative Terri Austin (D-36) said it seems “incredibly unfair” that Ricker’s will have to make additional changes to the restaurant model it has already invested in, despite clearing all legal hurdles.