Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 15, 2013

Store owners weigh in on cold beer lawsuit

Local liquor store owner: 'It would put us out of business.'

By Carson Gerber
Tribune staff writer

— If you want to buy cold beer in Kokomo, your options are limited to Soupley’s Wine and Spirits or a few other package liquor stores in the city.

That’s because state law currently allows only carry-out liquor stores to sell beer cold, while convenience, grocery and pharmacy stores can only sell beer at room temperature.

But a lawsuit filed Tuesday by Indiana convenience stores in a U.S. district court could change that. They want the law changed to allow their stores to sell cold beer.

It’s a change convenience stores in Kokomo would welcome.

“It’s summertime. People want cold beer,” said Alex Sing, manager of Buddy’s Mart on North Apperson Way. “We’re with our customers on this.”

Sing said the current law doesn’t make sense and said it creates an inconvenience to consumers in Kokomo who have to drive out of their way to buy cold beer.

He said it also creates an inconvenience for his store, where he has to take up floor space displaying beer that could be used for other merchandise.

The law also gives an unfair advantage to liquor stores, Sing said, which currently have a monopoly on cold beer sales. He estimated his store would sell 40 percent more beer if it could sell it cold.

But Kyle Rayl, who co-owns the 10 Soupley’s stores in Kokomo, said allowing convenience and grocery stores to sell cold beer would be devastating for carry-out establishments like his.

“You wouldn’t see package stores in Indiana anymore,” he said. “It’d put us out of business.”

Rayl said cold beer sales account for about 50 percent of overall business at his liquor stores.

“We’d be splitting half of our business with 40 other stores in town,” he said. “Just do the math. We wouldn’t exist.”

But Sing said it’s only fair to allow stores like his to sell beer cold, and said his customers agree.

“They want to buy cold beer where they want, and we want to sell it,” he said.

Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He can be reached at 765-854-6739, or by email at carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.