INDIANAPOLIS — About 30 people gathered around the television outside the Indiana Senate chambers Wednesday afternoon. They all wore bright blue T-shirts that read “We Want Cold Beer!” on the front and “Vote Yes to SB 26” on the back.
Some were employees at Ricker’s gas stations. Others were members of the Ricker family, the owners of Ricker's gas stations. Representatives from numerous gas stations and convenience stores were showing their support for Senate Bill 26, a bill that would allow cold beer to be sold in grocery stores, convenience stores or drug stores.
Heads tilted up, they watched as the Senate public policy committee voted 9-1 against the bill, ending a controversy surrounding whether or not convenience, grocery or drug stores could sell cold beer.
Before voting, the committee spent three hours hearing dozens of people voice their support or opposition of the bill.
Most of those in support of the bill were employees at oil companies and gas stations.
Matt Norris, representing the Indiana petroleum marketers and convenience store association, said he had one request: to allow convenience stores and gas stations to take a product they already sell, responsibly, and allow them to sell it at a different temperature.
Norris said his stores take the responsibility of selling alcohol very seriously.
Kelly McClure, president and CEO of McClure Oil Company, said selling alcohol at a different temperature doesn't change the product.
“As a lifelong Hoosier, I feel I can be trusted to purchase wine and beer when I want and at what temperature I want,” McClure added.
Nathan Huelsebusch, CEO of Taxman Brewing Company in Bargersville, spoke out against the bill, saying passing cold-beer legislation could negatively affect local craft beer companies.
“If we pass cold-beer legislation and if that causes liquor stores to close, that path for local craft beer becomes difficult," Huelsebusch said. "It impacts the Indiana market."
Some also argued allowing beer to be served cold at convenience stores could increase the likelihood someone would drink the beer while driving.
Captain Kevin Summers of Kokomo also spoke out against the bill, saying the number of alcohol outlets in an area is greatly affects the number of violent crimes in that area.
“I’ve seen firsthand the dangers of and heartbreaking reality of alcohol abuse,” Summers said.
Summers added that expanding the number of alcohol outlets for immediate consumption could create an unworkable situation for law enforcement to effectively police.
While the bill failed in the Senate, Hoosiers still have hope for purchasing alcohol on Sundays. Two bills are currently making their way through the House and Senate that would allow residents to buy alcohol from liquor stores, grocery stores and restaurants on Sundays.
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