“Maybe this year.” Much like fans of the Chicago Cubs chanted this hopeful phrase for decades, Hoosiers have been hoping for the legalization of Sunday liquor sales. Like clockwork, this issue arises at the Statehouse, is debated and is defeated despite broad public support.
This year is no different. A bill allowing Sunday carry-out liquor sales has been introduced, debate has been started, and the people of Indiana are waiting to see if this year is finally their year.
There are carry-out Sunday sales in 38 states, and adults 21 years old and older are trusted to make their decisions six other days of the week.
The periodic showdown in Indianapolis features two major players, neither of which are actual consumers a Sunday sale bill would benefit.
On one side are the big-box grocery stores and drug stores. Corporate sponsors of a Sunday sale bill in the past have been Kroger and Wal-Mart. Sunday is the second-busiest shopping day of the week, and stores like Kroger want Sunday sales so when people stock up on Ramen and pizza rolls they stock up on alcohol as well.
On the other side of the fence are the package liquor stores, represented by the Indiana Beverage Alliance. These small liquor stores, like Big Red Liquors, oppose Sunday sales. If people shop on Sunday but can't buy alcohol, they will go out another day specifically for their liquor. When people go out just to by alcohol, they will likely opt for a liquor store over a supermarket. This keeps people coming through the doors of Big Red instead of Kroger.
In the battle to secure Sunday sales, the package store lobby has been mostly successful. The 80-year ban on carry-out Sunday sales in the state has been largely upheld, with an attempt to repeal the measure in 2015 failing after it was bogged down by expensive prohibitions for big-box store renovations and time-consuming regulatory requirements.
Existing loopholes in the law include permission for restaurants to serve alcohol in house on Sundays and for craft distilleries, wineries, and breweries to have carry-out sales on Sundays. For instance, while Big Red and 21st Amendment are closed on Sunday, an Indiana resident could have his or her growler refilled at Upland Brewing.
Left out of this debate is the benefit for consumers who will actually benefit from Sunday sales. It is beyond time for the statehouse to get out of the way and stop letting special interests dictate what Hoosiers can buy and when they can buy it.
Whether it’s college students making a run to the store before the Sunday game, a family dinner party going out for another bottle of wine or any of the other thousands of choices Hoosiers want to make every Sunday, it’s time to let them have their way.