The House Public Policy Committee took its first steps Wednesday in this session’s debate over Sunday alcohol carryout sales.
The committee heard close to an hour of testimony on a bill to legalize Sunday sales from noon to 8 p.m.
None of the 10 people who testified opposed the measure on its face. The Coalition To Reduce Underage Drinking, represented by director Lisa Hutcheson, does want a study on the impact of Sunday sales on underage drinking.
Hutcheson also asked lawmakers to require clerks to receive alcohol training, to increase the alcohol tax, and require stores to keep alcohol in a separate area, not scattered throughout.
“We are not prohibitionists. We know that alcohol will continue to have a role in our society as it always has,” Hutcheson says. “But what role are we going to give it? The role of convenience beverage that is as accessible as milk or candy?”
The Indiana Retail Council, which represents grocery stores, is one of the many groups who’ve rallied around this year’s Sunday sales push. Council President Grant Monahan says it’s what consumers want.
“And we don’t see any difference between the activities that take place in our member stores six days a week versus the seventh,” Monahan says.
What little debate there was circled around one of the bill’s provisions – the limitation on what hours alcohol can be sold.
During committee discussion, some members questioned the 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. restriction.
Committee Chair Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn), the bill’s author, says those hours were part of a special study commission’s recommendation last year. He says many states restrict the hours alcohol is sold on Sundays, and that for liquor stores who would now have to open on Sundays, 12 to 8 p.m. represents just one shift.
And Smaltz didn’t seem very amenable to expanding the hours any further.
“Whenever you expand alcohol sales, you’re gonna have problems,” Smaltz says.
The House committee is set to vote on the bill next week.