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Cold beer sales hearing begins Thursday

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A federal judge in Indianapolis Thursday will consider a group of convenience and grocery stores’ challenges to the state law prohibiting those businesses from selling cold beer.

Chief Judge Richard L. Young in the Southern District of Indiana set aside two days this week to consider the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction. The Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association and its members filed its lawsuit last year, claiming the ban stopping convenience stores, pharmacies and groceries from selling cold beer is discriminatory. The plaintiffs say the state’s current practice of regulating beer sales by temperature is arbitrary.

For nearly the last five years, the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association has lobbied the Legislature unsuccessfully to be able to sell cold beer.

The group asserts the state’s limitations on sales of cold beer violate the equal protection clause and the equal privileges clause of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit charges Indiana’s practices violate the equal protection clause and Article 1, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution.

The defendants, in their answer to the complaint, countered they have not violated the plaintiffs’ rights secured under the Constitution or any state or federal law. They also argue the plaintiffs’ claims are barred by sovereign immunity and the 11th Amendment.  

21st Amendment Inc., a chain of liquor stores in Indianapolis, filed motions to intervene in the lawsuit, which Young denied. 21st Amendment said the plaintiffs are ignoring the other restrictions placed solely on package liquor stores – the only locations cold beer may be sold – such as where the stores can be located and what items they can sell.

The case is Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, Thornton’s Inc., Ricker Oil Company Inc., Freedom Oil, LLC, Steve E. Noe v. Alex Huskey, in his official capacity as Chairman of the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, 1:13-CV-784.
 

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