A series of recent stories in the Indianapolis Star has led to a “war or words”, so to speak, between the liquor stores and cold beer/Sunday retail sales groups.

The Star has run a series of stories highlighting the relationships between some lawmakers and liquor stores, concluding it’s the primary reason why Indiana doesn’t have Sunday retail sales and Hoosiers can only purchase cold beer in liquor stores as opposed to grocery and convenience stores.

Sarah Stegmeyer of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers said the Star story was basically an attack on package liquor stores

“The Indianapolis Star has spent months digging, requesting information and interviewing in the hopes of advancing their agenda to impugn Indiana’s small business package liquor store owners and legislators. The package liquor store owners have cooperated at every turn.   

In the end they breathlessly reported what we already know – that Indiana’s small business package liquor store owners are effective because they are hardworking underdogs who must wake up every day knowing that big oil and some of the globes largest companies are intent on destroying their business and livelihood to increase their profits.

Indiana’s small business package liquor stores have paid handsomely for the privilege to sell a dangerous product like alcohol that can destroy lives, families and communities. We need safe and strong regulations to ensure that they do not get into the wrong hands. That is why we are subject to strict regulations including not allowing those under 21 into our stores and having specially trained and licensed clerks. Package liquor store permits often cost over $400,000 compared to just $500 or $1000 for other permits.

We remain committed to working with all stakeholders who are willing to come to the table to deliver the results that Hoosiers deserve. This includes a path forward on allowing Sunday sales for the first time since prohibition and tripling the penalties on serving alcohol to a minor. We are eager to get to work.”

Scott Imus, head of the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association released the following statement saying the Star story merely confirmed what many already knew…

“This weekend’s report in the Indianapolis Star provides yet another reason why we must modernize our state’s liquor laws by repealing the cold beer ban. It is clear we have a system riddled with questionable business practices involving intimidation and coercion.  To those from out of state who wonder about our bizarre warm beer law, you only need to look at the extortion-like tactics detailed in this article. For years, the liquor store industry has spread its powerful tentacles far and wide, all the while reaping ill-gotten profits.

What does the cold beer monopoly bring Hoosiers?

It brings a system where manufacturers and suppliers face coercionary tactics, such as, requiring yearly solicitations for tens of thousands of dollars and being told who they can hire. Both are pressured to remain silent on critical business issues lest their product loses valuable cooler space. Finally, let’s not forget consumers left with limited choices of where they can buy cold beer, only then forced to pay a surcharge for buying that beer.   When the General Assembly convenes in January, they will have learned that over 70 percent of Hoosiers want to see the cold beer ban end. That liquor stores are more than twice as likely to sell to minors than drug, grocery or convenience stores and lastly, that liquor stores have a storied practice of engaging in heavy-handed business practices.

What possible reason would there be for the General Assembly not to repeal this outmoded law?”

The panel reviewing Indiana’s alcohol laws is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday.