Senate committee advances Sunday booze sales bill

Indiana State Sen. Ron Alting, a Republican from Lafayette, speaks Jan. 10, 2018, to news media at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hoosiers are one step closer to being able to buy alcohol on Sundays at stores in Indiana.

Key lawmakers on Wednesday met at the Statehouse to talk about eliminating Indiana’s Prohibition-era ban on Sunday sales in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The momentum of these bills is something Indiana would not have seen a decade ago.

State Rep. Ben Smaltz, a Republican from Auburn, said his Sunday sales bill is pretty much exactly the same as the Senate version authored by State Sen. Ron Alting, a Republican from Lafayette.

Both bills took big steps Wednesday.

The Senate chambers were packed as Alting, chairman of the Senate’s Public Police Committee, championed his measure, Senate Bill 1.

Alting said, “If you notice, there’s no one fighting in the halls, there’s no one fighting in here. There’s really no big strong opposition of it.”

After testimony, his Sunday alcohol sales bill zipped forward by a vote of 9-0. The bill now heads to the full Senate for further consideration.

Alting said, “I’m hoping we don’t get bombarded down in second readings, and that’s why I mentioned that. That’s also been the death of these good bills like this.”

In the packed House chambers, perhaps one of the biggest names in front of their committee was Kroger grocery stores. Eric Halvorson, a Kroger spokesperson, spoke before the House Public Policy Committee.

“I’m here to express Kroger’s support for House Bill 1051, allowing for Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages in Indiana. The additional few hours are important to our customers.”

Both the House and Senate bills would allow alcohol sales in grocery, convenience, liquor and drugstores from noon to 8 p.m.

But Indiana’s Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking wants strict amendments to both bills; for example, in-store advertising separation.

Lisa Hutchenson, the vice president of Indiana’s Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking, said, “We’re just concerned that sometimes there are advertisements for the Super Bowl for beer right next to, you know, kids books and things like that.”

Even so, Smaltz, who chairs the House Public Policy Committee, said he is confident his bill will progress.

Smaltz said, “Anything can happen in this process when it comes out the committee. I think it’ll come out of the committee pretty clean.”

Smaltz also said he expects a committee vote on his Sunday sales bill next week.

On another matter, Alting promised the measure to propose cold beer sales, Senate Bill 26, will get a hearing and a vote on the Senate floor next week. That measure would allow convenience stores, big box retailers and pharmacies to sell cold — and not just warm — beer. Currently that is a right enjoyed primarily by package liquor stores, which have fought hard to keep it that way. The state currently limits carryout sales of cold beer to liquor stores and some restaurants.


Jon Sinder, chairman of Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, released this statement:

 It is time for Sunday sales. Today’s committee hearings were a significant step forward in the legislative process that we hope will end with Hoosiers being able to purchase alcohol for carryout on Sundays for the first time since prohibition without compromising on safety. We are eager to continue working directly with legislators and policy makers as these landmark pieces of legislation continue to move forward without delay.”