Ricker's Heats Up Beer-Sales 'Firestorm'

Jump through legal loophole has Indiana legislators promising action

UPDATE: On April 3, An Indiana House panel approved a bill allowing Ricker's convenience stores to temporarily continue selling cold beer, according to an Associated Press report. The Legislature is expected to address broader alcohol law issues at a later date. The bill was passed on an 8-4 vote. It would allow Ricker's to sell cold beer until their current liquor permits expire.

ANDERSON, Ind. -- Indiana retailers have a long history of fighting regulations that prevent them from selling cold beer. Now, a recent effort by one retailer has state lawmakers promising to make those restrictions tougher by closing a loophole that has allowed Ricker's convenience stores to sell cold beer by the six-pack.

The loophole became evident as Ricker's increasingly turned to foodservice to improve profits and store traffic, according to a report in the Indianapolis Star.

As the Anderson, Ind.-based chain has rolled out its made-to-order Tex-Mex food program to its 56 c-stores, adding tables and seating, company leaders found that these in-store restaurants "checked all the boxes needed to qualify for cold-beer sales."

After going through the process of applying for restaurant-grade liquor licenses, going through the public-hearing process and gaining approval from the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission, Ricker's found itself in the cold-beer business at two stores this month.

According to state law, dining-room customers can order a cold beer with their meal and have it delivered to their table; they can also order a cold six-pack for the road, according to the report.

To the liquor industry, however, the effort is an attempt to skirt decades-old regulation. "They are just thumbing their noses in terms of the intent of Indiana’s laws," Patrick Tamm, president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, said in a statement.

State legislators are now getting in the act and promising to close the loophole as soon as possible.

For Jay Ricker, chairman of the family-owned c-store chain, the issue is "ludicrous."

"This has turned into a real firestorm," Ricker told the newspaper. "For the liquor lobby to apply pressure to keep their monopoly is just un-American. It's not fair."

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