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Cold Beer License Prompts Heated Lawmaker Response

A convenience store chain has been able to legally sell cold beer through a loophole in Indiana law.

Beer

Photo: Andrew Tamala

Indiana-based convenience store chain Ricker's was able to bypass that restriction by obtaining two licenses typically reserved for restaurants.

A convenience store chain’s licenses to sell cold beer have Indiana lawmakers pledging to amend the state’s liquor law before the end of session.

Convenience stores can sell warm beer or cold wine but the sale of cold beer for carryout has long been reserved for Indiana’s liquor stores. Indiana-based convenience store chain Ricker’s was able to bypass that restriction by obtaining two licenses typically reserved for restaurants.

Ricker’s Chairman Jay Ricker says legislators will likely offer an amendment to a bill to close the loophole.

“I don’t think it’s right,” Ricker says. “The liquor lobby has a legal monopoly. Nobody in the state of Indiana can sell carryout for cold beer except the liquor store.”

The loophole prompted strong reactions from lawmakers, with both House Speaker Brian Bosma and GOP Senate leader David Long calling for an amendment to end the sales.

But Ricker says Ricker’s convenience stores have over-complied with the regulations and meet the requirements to do so. He says if the public doesn’t respond, however, that will likely change soon if an amendment passes in the legislature.

Long says the decision was a misinterpretation of the law by the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission.

A spokeswoman for the commission declined to comment, citing upcoming legislation.

“Ricker’s is flouting longstanding Indiana public policy by choosing to thumb their nose at the Indiana General Assembly and the courts,” Patrick Tamm, President and CEO with the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers said in a statement. “Per a decision upheld by the U.S District Court of Appeals, Indiana has a rational basis for prohibiting grocery and convenience stores from selling cold beer as they are substantially less regulated than an Indiana package liquor store. The Indiana General Assembly has never given permission for a gas station to sell hard liquor, beer and wine for both on premise consumption and carry out sales.”

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