By Alec Gray
A controversial bill allowing the sale of alcohol on Sundays passed an Indiana House committee on Wednesday.
House Bill 1624 passed the House Public Policy Committee with the addition of amendments that would pose some restrictions on where liquor and beer can be sold in stores.
Because of the recent add-ons to the legislation, a change in opinions has occurred among several lawmakers. Most legislators who supported the bill prior to its amendments now oppose it and many who were previously opposed are now in favor.
Opponents of the amendment say liquor stores will not have to change their business model, but non-liquor stores will be forced to change. They also said customers would be greatly inconvenienced by the segregation of alcohol from other on-the-shelf products.
“This issue has always been about bringing greater convenience and choice to consumers,” said Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council. “Hoosiers believe that a product sold safely six days a week should be able to be sold on the seventh day. Instead of focusing on that, this amendment has turned this legislation into a debate about increasing restrictions on alcohol for consumers.”
Cam Carter, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic development, said he predicts that if this bill is passed into law it will be repealed in less than a year, because customers would not enjoy the changes.
“Do you think they will accept these serial inconveniences? No they will not,” Carter said. “There will be a backlash, deservedly so, and it will not be directed at liquor stores or retailers.”
However, proponents of the bill said big box stores are not truly interested in customer convenience, but profits instead.
“Big box retailers have been framing this issue, the issue of Sunday sales, as a matter of convenience for the consumers, claiming it’s a consumer movement,” said Greg Bush, a package store owner. “We all know that that’s not true. It has always been and always will be about market share and profit.”
Representatives from big box stores also said the amendment forces them to change their business model, which could cost millions of dollars.
Those supporting the amendment said regulations are key in order to keep underage customers from purchasing or stealing alcohol – something many representatives of retailers say they are already succeeding at.
The bill’s author, Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, said there are no “bad guys” in the Sunday sales discussion and the bill is not a compromise, but sound public policy.
Dermody challenged both sides to work together on a mutually beneficial solution to allow Sunday sales.
“This bill is not for big box retailers, this bill is not for package liquor stores,” Dermody said. “This bill is for Hoosiers.”
The legislation passed 10-2 and now heads to the full House for further consideration.
Alec Gray is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.