Cold beer sales takes center stage at the Indiana Statehouse

The debate for stores to sell cold beer took center stage at the Indiana Statehouse Wed., March 29, 2017. (WISH photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The debate for stores to sell cold beer took center stage at the Indiana Statehouse Wednesday after a gas station started selling it earlier this month.

Ricker’s Gas Stations thought the tough part of getting cold beer inside its stores would be the permitting part. But so far, that isn’t the case.

“It’s way more hassle, as you say, than I thought it was going to be,” Ricker’s Gas Station owner, Jay Ricker said. “But public opinion I feel is on our side.”

On Wednesday, he took that opinion to the Indiana Statehouse, as both a Senate and House committee questioned his license. “Where I have permits already, and have made tens of thousands of dollars in investments in equipment and training, a lot of different things, you want to take those licenses away from me,” Ricker said.

They might. Both committees are debating amendments that would change the restaurant license law.

One way is requiring 90 percent of business sales to be food and drinks. The Indiana Petroleum and Convenience Store Association said this change would hurt theaters, golf courses, and salons that sell cold beer.

“This is a major public policy change what you have before you,” Indiana Petroleum and Convenience Store Association Executive Director Scot Imus said. “Is that really what you want to do in the last weeks of the session? It’s not just Ricker’s you’re addressing, as you’ll hear later, you’re addressing a whole swath of businesses.”

The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers disagrees. Members argued a gas station shouldn’t have a restaurant license.

“This is a moment you’re being asked to make a public policy decision,’ Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers CEO Patrick Flamm said. “Do you want that to happen? Do you want thousands revamped permits selling both hard liquor and cold beer?”

But Ricker said as cigarette and gas sales drop, this debate won’t go away because his industry needs to get creative to avoid falling flat. “Our business is constantly evolving,” Ricker said. “We felt in our legal right to sell cold beer in our restaurant.”

The House committee plans on voting on the amendment Monday. They are also considering taking this matter to a summer committee.

Ricker said if that happens, he will drop his pursuit to get cold beer into more of his locations until the issue is resolved.

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