Indiana Retailers Embrace Cold-Beer Alternative

Reusable Chill Bags ‘a revolutionary take’ but not the solution

INDIANAPOLIS -- Forget loopholes: The Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (IPCA) is recommending its members market an alternative to selling cold beer—at least until they can do so legally.

Chill Indiana, a coalition of small businessmen and women in Indiana supported by the IPCA, is bringing the Chill Bag to Indiana retailers.

The reusable bags are "a revolutionary take on traditional coolers because they allow customers access to readily available ice,” said Scot Imus, executive director of the IPCA, Indianapolis. “If customers want to buy cold beverages, such as water or soda, the bags will keep that beverage cold. Conversely, if the customer buys a product that stores are forced to sell warm, such as beer, the product will be cold by the time that customer reaches their destination.”

While c-stores have always sold coolers and bags of ice, the method of icing warm beverages was often clumsy, expensive and impractical, according to Chill Indiana. With the reusable chill bag, the customer makes a one-time purchase of a bag and then is allowed free access to ice from the store’s fountain machine on subsequent purchases. An ice-filled bag will take a bottle or can from room temperature to an acceptable consumable temperature in just 15 minutes, and it keeps that beverage cold for hours.

“This should not be viewed as a solution to our cold-beer fight, as that battle continues. There remains no public policy reason to allow liquor stores to sell cold beer but deny that right to grocery and convenience stores. This innovative approach does not run afoul of the cold-beer prohibition because the customer will be chilling the beer after the point of purchase,” Imus said.

Previously, c-store retailer Ricker Oil, Anderson, Ind., took advantage of a loophole in Indiana law, expanding its foodservice offer to an extent that its stores surpassed the legal definition for a restaurant, which can sell cold beer.

Since then, state legislators have taken action to close the loophole, leaving retailers to look for another recourse.

“As we have documented, the vast majority of liquor stores charge a premium for cold beer," Imus said. "After a one-time purchase of the Chill Indiana bags, Hoosiers will no longer be subjected to the unscrupulous pricing practices of the liquor-store industry.”

The bags are manufactured by RP & Associates of Hermosa Beach, Calif., and have a suggested retail price of $6.99. Stores are expected to start carrying the bags in the next several weeks, although some had them in time for the Memorial Day weekend.

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