Cold beer bill passes, headed to gov.’s desk

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

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A day after an Indiana business owner felt like he was signaled out by the legislature, Republican leaders Friday acknowledged that’s exactly what happened.

Lawmakers passed a bill to close a cold beer loophole. The House passed passed the bill by a vote of 84-13, while the Senate had passed the bill earlier.

The bill is now on its way to Governor Eric Holcomb’s desk.

After the bill passed Chairman of Ricker’s convenience stores, Jay Ricker released the following statement:

Despite overwhelming support both for Ricker’s restaurants and an overhaul of our state’s outdated and outrageous liquor laws, the General Assembly again decided to ignore the will of the people and reward those who have rewarded them. Those of us who believe the free market should offer as many choices as possible for consumers will be watching the General Assembly and will hold its leadership and its members accountable to their pledge of reforming these Depression-era laws. From the very beginning of this discussion, I made it clear that I understood this was a difficult and complicated issue, but I also stated several times that I was willing to compromise and have a good faith debate about the future. Instead, it is clear from the legislation passed this week that Ricker’s restaurants were specifically targeted for punitive action by legislators. For reasons known only to them and their generous supporters, the leadership in the House and Senate struck a blow against basic Hoosier fairness. Make no mistake, if this can happen to Ricker’s it can happen to any business, any time.”

Last month, Ricker’s gas stations started to sell cold beer at two of its locations.

House and Senate leaders had debated a bill to prevent other convenience stores from doing the same thing over the past two weeks. Leaders released the details of the deal Thursday.

In it, any business with a permit issued prior to November is grandfathered in. Ricker’s said it received one of its permits in mid-November.

The Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC) issued Ricker’s licenses after the gas station created a made to order food area. House Speaker Brian Bosma said the date in the proposal is no coincidence.

“We’re definitely addressing their permits which are significantly different than the ATC had issued before,” House Speaker Bosma said. “But we’re also treating them fairly by allowing them to extend their permits, at the ATC discretion, through the next legislative session so that we can take a strong look at the entire code and see where we want to go in this regard.”

Ricker’s can keep its license through next April. It can also keep its license if it makes 60 percent of its profits from people drinking at the business.

The proposal doesn’t call for a summer study committee. House Speaker Bosma said he intends to have lawmakers review liquor laws this summer, and possibly take action next year.

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