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Convenience stores continue fight for cold beer

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Indiana convenience stores are pushing forward with their effort to persuade the courts to upend the state’s restrictions on cold beer sales.

On Tuesday the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association announced it is appealing a federal court ruling that upheld Indiana’s alcohol law and has filed a complaint in Marion Superior Court.

“The fight for common sense, fair competition and rewarding – rather than punishing – responsible beer sellers continues,” said plaintiffs’ attorney John Maley of Barnes & Thornburg.

Patrick Tamm, CEO of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, said he was not surprised by the notice to appeal, charging the convenience stores have already spent a considerable amount of money on this litigation.

“These plaintiffs are large corporate interests with deep pockets and have much to gain in overturning Indiana law – even as they admitted in their own testimony calling their gas stations and convenience stores that sell alcohol ‘profit centers.’”

In 2013 the convenience store association, along with Ricker Oil Co., Thornton’s and Freedom Oil, filed a complaint in federal court, challenging the constitutionality of the state statute which permits only liquor stores to sell beer cold. Richard Young, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, granted summary judgment in favor of the state, finding the alcohol laws were rational.

The appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals argues the District Court committed legal error.
 
In the complaint filed in Marion County, the convenience stores revive the state claims that the federal court relinquished. In particular, the association argues that the cold beer prohibition violates the Equal Privileges Clause of the Indiana Constitution.

Maley maintained the purpose of the clause is to prevent state government from favoring one business over another. The Indiana Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld that precedent, most recently doing so in February when it overturned Evansville’s smoking ordinance, he said.

“That’s what the antiquated cold beer prohibition does in this setting. It picks a winner and establishes a monopoly,” Maley said. “Hoosiers pay more as a result and public safety is put at risk because a less-responsible retailer is given that privilege. The Indiana Constitution prohibits that.”

Maley’s reference to public safety highlights the main thrust of the association’s argument.

As in its original complaint filed in federal court, the association points to statistics from the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission that show liquor stores have been cited more time for selling to minors than groceries, pharmacies, and convenience stores combined. The plaintiffs assert that limiting cold beer sales to package stores is not rational because their compliance rate is poor compared to the other retailers.

However, Young found the statistics to be problematic. He said it is “pure speculation” to conclude the other businesses will maintain their compliance rates if they are allowed to sell cold beer. In fact, he points to testimony from Thornton’s, Inc., which noted the retailer has been cited for selling to minors in state’s were cold beer sales are permitted.

Maley and Scot Imus, association executive director, maintained the compliance rate would not fall if the retailers were allowed to put beer in their refrigerators. They argue convenience stores deter underage drinkers because the businesses are well-lit, filled with people and frequented by police. They say clerks will not forget to comply with the law against selling to minors once the beer is cold.

Moreover, they said, the beer would be removed from the shelves and floors, where it is easily seen by children and teenagers, and placed further away in the coolers where it would be less visible and accessible.

“The reason (convenience stores) do better is because of the nature of the industry,” Maley said of the plaintiffs’ compliance rate. “They are responsible sophisticated businesses, not one-off liquor stores that have an incentive to sell that next 12-pack because they need the three bucks profit.”

Early next month, Maley said the plaintiffs will be filing a motion in Marion Superior Court for summary judgment. Also, he said, the effort to get the Legislature to rewrite the state law will continue.

 

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  1. The is an unsigned editorial masquerading as a news story. Almost everyone quoted was biased in favor of letting all illegal immigrants remain in the U.S. (Ignoring that Obama deported 3.5 million in 8 years). For some reason Obama enforcing part of the immigration laws was O.K. but Trump enforcing additional parts is terrible. I have listed to press conferences and explanations of the Homeland Security memos and I gather from them that less than 1 million will be targeted for deportation, the "dreamers" will be left alone and illegals arriving in the last two years -- especially those arriving very recently -- will be subject to deportation but after the criminals. This will not substantially affect the GDP negatively, especially as it will take place over a number of years. I personally think this is a rational approach to the illegal immigration problem. It may cause Congress to finally pass new immigration laws rationalizing the whole immigration situation.

  2. Mr. Straw, I hope you prevail in the fight. Please show us fellow American's that there is a way to fight the corrupted justice system and make them an example that you and others will not be treated unfairly. I hope you the best and good luck....

  3. @ President Snow - Nah, why try to fix something that ain't broken??? You do make an excellent point. I am sure some Mickey or Minnie Mouse will take Ruckers seat, I wonder how his retirement planning is coming along???

  4. Can someone please explain why Judge Barnes, Judge Mathias and Chief Judge Vaidik thought it was OK to re weigh the evidence blatantly knowing that by doing so was against the rules and went ahead and voted in favor of the father? I would love to ask them WHY??? I would also like to ask the three Supreme Justices why they thought it was OK too.

  5. How nice, on the day of my car accident on the way to work at the Indiana Supreme Court. Unlike the others, I did not steal any money or do ANYTHING unethical whatsoever. I am suing the Indiana Supreme Court and appealed the failure of the district court in SDIN to protect me. I am suing the federal judge because she failed to protect me and her abandonment of jurisdiction leaves her open to lawsuits because she stripped herself of immunity. I am a candidate for Indiana Supreme Court justice, and they imposed just enough sanction so that I am made ineligible. I am asking the 7th Circuit to remove all of them and appoint me as the new Chief Justice of Indiana. That's what they get for dishonoring my sacrifice and and violating the ADA in about 50 different ways.

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