Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

July 15, 2014

Convenience stores keep fighting to sell cold beer

Group seeks to have ruling reviewed by federal appeals court

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Convenience stores in Indiana are keeping up their fight to be able to sell cold beer, as a trade group said Tuesday it was appealing a judge's decision upholding the state law that prohibits them from selling the beverages chilled.

The Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association announced it was asking a federal appeals court to review the district court judge's ruling last month rejecting its challenge. Federal Judge Richard Young ruled the state has legitimately drawn a line by allowing only liquor stores to sell cold beer.

Scot Imus, the convenience store association's executive director, said the group maintains the state law goes against common sense.

Sun Capital Partners, owners of the local Village Pantry convenience stores, deferred to Imus when asked for comment on the proceedings.

"It is clear the monopoly liquor stores have limits consumer choice and hurts the growth of our state's economy," Imus said.

The association is also challenging the restrictions with a lawsuit in a Marion County court.

The Indiana attorney general's office has defended the state law, saying the proper place to fight the restrictions was the Legislature, not the courts.

Efforts by opponents of the restrictions, however, have been unsuccessful in attempts over the past several years to persuade legislators to allow cold beer sales in convenience stores and groceries.

Young wrote in his ruling that expanding the sale of cold beer beyond liquor stores, taverns and restaurants would make Indiana's alcoholic beverage laws tougher to enforce by creating many more outlets where minors could buy cold beer.

The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers supports the current law, saying grocery and convenience stores don't face the same the age restrictions as liquor stores on who can enter and the requirement to hire clerks with state liquor licenses. Locally, Soupley's Wine and Spirits owner Kyle Rayl asked that all questions regarding the ongoing proceedings be directed to the IABR.

An appeal of the judge's ruling was expected because the convenience store association has spent a large sum of money to sue the state, said Patrick Tamm, CEO of the liquor store group.

"These plaintiffs are large corporate interests with deep pockets and have much to gain in overturning Indiana law," Tamm said.

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