Are Hoosiers Warming to Cold Beer Sales in C-Stores?

Trial begins in Indiana convenience retailers' lawsuit over selling chilly brews

Ice cold beer

INDIANAPOLIS -- A trial began Feb. 20 in federal court in Indianapolis over a lawsuit by the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association (IPCA) challenging the state's law prohibiting the sale of cold beer by gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores and pharmacies, reported The Indianapolis Star.

Owners of those businesses say they are at a competitive disadvantage.

"Now is the time for common sense to be applied to Indiana's alcohol laws, which are irrational, discriminatory and outdated," Scot Imus, executive director of IPCA, told the newspaper.

The plaintiffs, which also include Thorntons Inc., Ricker Oil Co., Freedom Oil and customer Steve E. Noe, filed the lawsuit in May with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The lawsuit alleges that the state law is unconstitutional and creates a "discriminatory regulatory regime" that prevents such stores from selling refrigerated beer, while allowing sales at liquor stores.

The IPCA decided to file the lawsuit in May 2013 after failing for years to convince the state legislature to overturn the law, said the report.

Indiana has a hodgepodge of strict liquor laws that have been passed in the 80 years since Prohibition ended. Hoosiers, for instance, face the broadest restrictions in the country on the sale of beer, wine and hard liquor on Sundays.

Religious groups argue against increased consumption. Social organizations, such as Mental Health America of Indiana, say loosening restrictions would lead to more underage drinking and drunken driving.

The package liquor store lobby has said for years the stores it represents would go out of business if the bans on cold beer sales or Sunday sales were overturned.

Jay Ricker, who owns 46 c-stores that sell liquor in Indiana, said changing the law will allow him to be more competitive. Nationally, he said, beer is a top seller at c-stores, and it draws in customers who then buy other items.

"This is just a fairness issue," he told the Star. "As a retailer based in Indiana, we want to get our fair share of business, and we are prevented from doing that by this outdated law from Prohibition."

Click here to view the full Indianapolis Star report.