by Grant Monahan
Lifting the ban on Sunday carryout alcohol sales is a simple concept-allow drug, grocery, convenience and liquor stores to do seven days a week what they already do six days. This easy pro-consumer change to the law died this session of the legislature because liquor store owners, with the help of the bill’s author, Representative Tom Dermody, used HB 1624 to add mandates to the bill that were clearly anti-consumer and extremely costly for retailers.
Liquor store owners do not want to compete on Sundays. Liquor store owners and their legislative allies have always looked at “leveling the playing field” as an excuse to burden the competition with more restrictions in the marketplace. Liquor store owners never consider a forward looking approach that would remove restrictions they publicly complain about, but never really want removed.
What the legislature sees so often (and this year is a perfect example) is a replay of a 35-year old battle between free market drug, grocery, and convenience store owners vs. liquor store owners who try to avoid the competitive retail environment that shoppers want. They instead rely on archaic statutes and regulations in an attempt to hold the competition back. Their purported claims of “support” of the amended version of HB 1624 illustrate this point. The amended bill hurt liquor store competitors and obfuscated what should be a straight forward effort for Sunday sales.
Consumers are the losers in these legislative battles. Many lawmakers ignore public opinion-two polls showing public support as high as 58% for Sunday sales and over 8,000 constituent emails were sent to House membership in support-and instead heed the narrow self-serving interests of liquor store owners.
HB 1624 is dead for the 2015 session and with the amendments added to the proposal in committee it should be. Drug, grocery, and convenience store owners and their allies worked hard to improve what unfortunately became a bad bill designed to do nothing more than fulfill desires on the liquor store owner’s legislative wish list.
What’s next? Unfortunately more of the same. Retailers that thrive in a competitive marketplace and are driven by a strong desire to serve their customers will continue to push for commonsense changes to Indiana’s antiquated alcoholic beverage law while liquor store owners will cling to Prohibition-era retailing that is intended to only serve themselves.
Sunday is the second busiest shopping day of the week. It is disappointing that it will remain, temporarily, the least consumer friendly day of the week.
Grant Monhan is the head of the Indiana Retail Council.