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Convenience stores sue to be able to sell cold beer

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The Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association has filed a complaint in federal court challenging the law governing the sale of cold beer. Convenience stores, pharmacies and groceries are unable to sell cold beer under current law.

Indiana is the only state that regulates beer sales based on temperature, I.C. 7.1-5-10-11. The law was enacted in 1941 and only affects businesses that hold a beer dealer’s permit.

The association and three of its members – Ricker’s, Thorntons and Freedom Express – claim the law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by restricting convenience, grocery and pharmacy stores to selling beer only at room temperature.

The plaintiffs argue that the current law causes the IPCA member stores to lose a “significant amount of revenue,” including from the sale of craft beer, which often must be kept cold for quality control purposes.

“There is no logic with the current law that gives one class of retailer an exclusive right to sell cold beer,” said IPCA Executive Director Scot Imus. “Indiana’s alcohol laws have not always favored one retailer over another and, in fact, it was just in the last 50 years that liquor stores were granted the privilege of selling cold beer.”

The plaintiffs claim the law is confusing to customers and that the statutes and regulations have evolved into an “irrational and discriminatory regulatory regime that prevents certain retail permit holders – such as grocery and convenience stores – from selling refrigerated beer, while allowing the sales at package liquor stores,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit contends that between 2007 and 2012, Indiana package liquor stores were 138 percent more likely to violate Indiana liquor laws than were licensed grocery stores (including convenience stores) and pharmacies. Bars and restaurants were 1,376 percent more likely to violate Indiana liquor law than grocery stores or pharmacies over that same time period.

The case, Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, et al. v. Alex Huskey, in his official capacity as chairman of the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, et al., 1:13-CV-784., was filed Tuesday morning in the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.

Legislation was introduced in the Senate during the 2013 legislative session, but did not pass, that would have allowed the holder of a beer dealer’s permit issued to a grocery story or drug store to sell and deliver cold beer made by an Indiana microbrewery.

IPAC is a nonprofit trade association of more than 250 primarily small- and medium-sized, family-owned businesses that operate convenience stores and supply petroleum throughout Indiana. IPAC is represented by attorneys John Maley and Mark Crandley of Barnes & Thornburg LLP.

 

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