Update 5:24 p.m.:
A federal court heard opening arguments today from Hoosier convenience stores challenging the Indiana law that bars them from selling cold beer.
The plaintiff says current law violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
Under the law, only liquor stores, taverns and restaurants can sell cold beer for carryout. Convenience stores can sell chilled wine, but not chilled beer.
The plaintiff’s attorney argued the penalties are too harsh for current law violations and there is too much vagueness and that it lacks clear guidelines for enforcement.
Quinn Rickers, the President and CEO of the Anderson-based convenience store Rickers, says current laws provide liquor stores an unfair advantage.
“I dont think how the state approached it makes any sense,” he says. “It’s very antiquated. You can go in mys store and you can buy warm beer and on your way out you can put it in a cold bin of ice and have cold beer one minute later.”
Retired excise police officer Major Robin Poindexter testified the state doesn’t have enough man power to enforce the law in rural areas and says there is no training to determine what qualifies as chilled beer.
But defense attorney Kenneth Joel argues the law is not as vague as the plaintiff is making it out to be, saying that anyone could tell the difference between chilled and room temperature beer.
The defense noted that anyone entering a liquor store must be 21 years old and employee must go through permitting and training. Joel also points out that convenience stores are open 24/7 while liquor stores are regulated on when they can be open, and that the 21st amendment allows states to regulate alcohol as they see fit.
Hoosier convenience stores go to federal court today to challenge the Indiana law that bars them from selling cold beer.
Liquor stores can sell beer cold, but other stores can‘t.
After years of unsuccessful lobbying to change the law, the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association sued last year, claiming the law violates equal-protection requirements.
Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association Executive Director Scot Imus says state law gives an unfair marketing advantage to package stores.
“Our members are in the business of providing what their customers want and desire and clearly those that are shopping for beer want it to be cold,” Imus said.
Imus also says last week’s Indiana Supreme Court ruling throwing out Evansville‘s smoking ban strengthens their argument.
In that case, a 3-2 majority ruled the city couldn’t ban smoking in bars while allowing it in casinos. The attorney general‘s office argues the constitutional amendment which repealed Prohibition gave states unlimited leeway to regulate alcohol. And it argues there’s a public-safety rationale for limiting where Hoosiers can buy alcohol to drink immediately.
Federal Judge Richard L. Young will hear two days of testimony but is not expected to rule immediately.