by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, Esq.
In addition to my eight million other jobs, one thing I do from time to time is help mediate disputes. I haven’t had to do it in a while, but I think my services might be in order this legislative session, particularly when it comes to Sunday alcohol sales.
By now you are quite familiar with the rule. Alcohol cannot be sold on Sunday at any retail outlet. So if you want to get a bottle of wine with dinner or beer before a game, you are out of luck — unless you live in one of the nearly 40 counties on the border and drive across the state line. The grocery stores want it, the liquor stores don’t. I am pro-Sunday sales, but I can understand how individuals can get a little nervous at the thought of losing money to the big box store near the interstate. So I have a suggestion, allow Sunday sales, but make everyone play by the same rules.
My friends in the liquor store business lament that they have to play by stricter rules than the grocery store folks so it would be unfair to allow Sunday sales. I am not saying the argument makes any sense. I’m just saying that’s what it is. So if that’s the issue, let’s go ahead and level the playing field.
For example, you have to be 21 to work in a liquor store, not so in a grocery or drugstore. That’s easily fixed, amend the law so only individuals 21 and over can ring up and stock alcohol. And if you want to add a requirement for training, I can deal with that too. Speaking of 21, you have to be 21 to enter a liquor store whereas there’s no age restriction on a grocery store. I can fix that one too. Simply allow someone under 21 to enter a liquor store as long as he or she is accompanied by an adult at least 25. See how easy this is.
Now what’s next? Oh yeah, the restrictions on what can be sold in liquor stores. According to state law, liquor stores are subject to “commodity restrictions,” meaning they can only sell certain items while grocery and drug stores can sell practically anything. An example of a “commodity restriction” would be something like potato chips, as opposed to potatoes, cakes or candy that contain alcohol versus those that don’t. I am not making this up. The rules have also been interpreted that you can sell DVDs as long as they deal with the “mixology of alcoholic beverages.” I’m not sure if “Coyote Ugly” or “Cocktail” fall into that category. Regardless, the easy way to fix that is to simply lift the restrictions. If you can sell it in a grocery store, allow it to be sold in a liquor store.
Can’t you already feel that playing field starting to level?
There is another rule, however, that is just straight-up protectionism. Liquor stores can only be in incorporated areas and must be owned by Indiana residents. Give me a break. There is no way anyone who truly believes in the free market or capitalism can really justify that.
There are some other things I could add, but this seems like a pretty good start to me. By the way, I can’t take full credit for all of this. Some of the ideas I proudly borrowed from state Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, who has been offering up compromise proposals forever and a day.
But just look at what I’ve done. In exchange for allowing grocery and drug stores to sell alcohol on Sundays, liquor stores get a ton of restrictions lifted off of them, which in turns allow them to sell more products and make more money.
Everybody wins. And all it took was a little give and take. If any of the parties want to get together and discuss this further, meet me downstairs at Nicky Blaine’s in downtown Indianapolis. I think we can reach a reasonable compromise and they’re open on Sundays.