In the annual showdown of the liquor stores versus the grocery stores, the liquor stores won.
That would be the quick way of summarizing this past Wednesday’s decision by a powerful legislative committee chair to kill the push toward Sunday package alcohol sales in Indiana.
But both sides claim much more is at stake than the profits for special interests, and the Indiana public would seem to agree.
Over the past four years, there has been a concerted push in the Indiana General Assembly to end Indiana’s ban on Sunday alcohol sales.
Every state has its own alcohol laws, but Indiana is the last state remaining where it is impossible to go to a store and purchase alcohol on a Sunday. Last year, Connecticut became the 49th state to allow Sunday sales.
The liquor store lobby is against Sunday sales for two reasons. First, the liquor store owners don’t think the additional sales would cover the cost of staying open a seventh day. Second, they worry about losing market share to the grocery stores.
The grocery stores want Sunday sales because many families do their grocery shopping on weekends, and complain that it’s inconvenient to make alcohol purchases outside of their regular shopping trips. The grocery stores are open anyway, so it’s an opportunity to make more money.
Grant Monahan of the Indiana Retail Council, the lobbying group for the grocery stores, said he disagrees that the issue is solely a liquor stores versus grocery stores special interest battle.
“I think it’s liquor stores versus consumers,” Monahan said. “We hear from our customers every Sunday, when they do their family grocery shopping, asking ‘Why can’t we buy alcohol?’ And that’s a fair question.”
Kyle Rayl, owner of Soupley’s Liquors in Kokomo, said the issue is more complicated than that, and pointed to the fact most Indiana grocery stores can sell spirits.