Bill to permit Sunday alcohol sales passes

Following the Alcohol Code Revision Commission’s decision to move forward with Sunday alcohol sales in Indiana, both houses of the Indiana General Assembly have approved repealing a prohibition-era ban.

The House of Representatives voted 87 to 10, while the Senate voted 39 to 10. The bill was authored by State Sen. Ron Alting (R) D-22, co-authored by State Sen. Lonnie Randolph (D) D-2, and sponsored by State Reps. Ben Smaltz (R) D-52 and Sally Siegrist (R) D-26.

This bill allows for alcohol to be sold from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays as opposed to the other six days, when it can be sold from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. It would allow convenience stores, grocery stores, liquor stores and big box stores to sell alcohol as they would during the other six days of the week.

Graphic by Alexis Stella

If passed through both houses and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, the bill originally would have gone into effect July 1. However, the House Public Policy Committee voted 9-1 in favor of the Sunday alcohol sales going into effect immediately after passage, meaning that Sunday alcohol sales could come to Indiana within the next few weeks if the amendment passes through the Indiana House and the Senate.

Several similar bills concerning Sunday alcohol have been proposed in the General Assembly in the past, but all died at some point in the legislative process.

According to Alting, the failure of previous, similar bills had to do with the addition of unnecessary provisions and strict regulations against the retailers that sell alcohol.

“One thing I would say that has killed Sunday alcohol sales in the past is that we [the legislature] have been too restrictive to the entities it effects,” Alting said. “…All kinds of obstacles that, quite honestly, just didn’t go over well. All this bill does is move the same entities of people that are serving alcohol six days a week to seven days a week, from the hours of 12 [p.m.] to 8 [p.m.].”

According to President of the Indiana Retail Council Grant Monahan, Indiana has been losing close to $12 million each year, taking into account lost Sunday alcohol sales and missed excise tax revenue.

He said that those who live near bordering states often cross over the border on Sundays to buy alcohol and, as a result, take their money with them. Monahan said that he and the Indiana Retail Council have been supporting Sunday alcohol sales for 10 years.

“This is the right thing to do,” Monahan said. “This helps to move Indiana’s alcoholic beverage laws into the 21st century. Our members hear form their customers every Sunday: ‘Why can’t we buy alcoholic beverages?’ And to be honest, there is not a good answer to that question.”

In a 2017 survey conducted by the Indianapolis Star, 70 percent of surveyed Hoosiers supported Sunday alcohol sales.

While many Hoosiers are in favor of the bill passing, others like Director of the Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking Lisa Hutcheson, are disappointed in the bill’s lack of language regarding underage drinking.

“I was displeased that out of the nine lay members [of the Alcohol Code Revision Committee], there was not one person who represented prevention [of underage drinking] or public health,” Hutcheson said. “We’re not prohibitionists. We know that alcohol will continue to have a role in our society, as it always has.”

In the Senate Public Policy Committee, Hutcheson urged legislators to collect data over the next two years to determine whether or not Sunday alcohol sales will have a negative effect on underage drinking.

Out of the House Public Policy Committee, the bill will head to the House floor to be voted on soon. If passed by the House, the bill will move back to the Senate to approve, or disapprove, the minor changes that have been made.

However, with the overwhelming support it has received, the bill will likely pass in both houses and become law, according to Alting.