Battle over cold beer sales heads to federal court

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – On Thursday, the latest battle over Indiana’s liquor laws will have its first of two days in federal court.

Convenience store owners want the right to sell cold beer.

Right now, only package liquor stores can sell cold beer; convenience, drug and grocery stores have to sell warm beer.

They say the fact that they can’t sell cold beer violates their constitutional rights to be treated equally.

The organization arguing on their behalf, the The Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (IPCA), filed federal suit in May 2013 against the state agency that enforces alcohol laws, the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC).

The IPCA says Indiana is the only state that regulates beer sales based on temperature.

If their beer was refrigerated, the IPCA argues that sales and investments in the state would increase by millions of dollars.

They’ve taken this fight to the Statehouse as recently as last year, but the General Assembly killed the bill.

Still, the IPCA says it questions the logic of laws that allow wine, often times with a higher alcohol volume, to be sold cold at convenience, drug and grocery stores, but not beer.

“For about the last four years, the excise police do random checks of all alcohol permit holders, and consistently drug, grocery and convenience stores fare much better than liquor stores when it comes to stopping sales for minors,” said Scot Imus with the IPCA. “It doesn’t make sense to us that the one entity most likely to sell to minors has the exclusive right to sell cold beer.”

When the suit was filed last year, the ATC declined comment.

24-Hour News 8 reached out to the ATC ahead of Thursday’s hearing but has yet to hear back.

Thursday’s hearing starts at 1 p.m. and is expected to last two days.

It’s not known when the judge will make a decision.

The IPCA is also the organization lobbying for Sunday alcohol sales in Indiana.

They argue that Indiana is the only state not to allow Sunday retail sales when customers can drink alcohol in restaurants that day and then drive home.

Imus said the IPCA will bring that issue to the Statehouse again during the 2015 legislative session.

Stay with WISH-TV for developments on both issues.

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