Fate uncertain for bill to end Sunday alcohol sales ban

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A House committee chairman says he hasn't decided if he'll allow a hearing on a proposal to end Indiana's long-running ban on retail stores selling alcohol on Sunday — the last of its kind in the nation.

House Public Policy Chairman Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, told the The Indianapolis Star that he probably won't decide for a few weeks if he'll allow a hearing on the bill filed Tuesday by Republican Rep. Sean Eberhart of Shelbyville. Dermody's committee must approve the measure before it can go to the House.

Indiana is the only state that still prohibits retail carryout sales of beer, wine and liquor on Sundays, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States spokesman Ben Jenkins said. Indiana residents can buy alcohol on Sundays at restaurants, bars, concerts and sporting events.

Eberhart said he's optimistic about the prospects of ending Indiana's ban this legislative session.

"We have a chairman that seems to be willing to look at the issue, we have a speaker that's willing to look at the issue and we have a public where a majority is in favor of the change," he said.

Similar efforts to legalize Sunday carryout sales in recent years have met stiff resistance from the liquor store lobby, which fears that doing so would increase costs without generating additional revenue. Past bills have not even received a committee vote.

But national grocery chains such as Kroger are leading what they hope will become a grass-roots effort to overturn the restriction. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is supporting the push, saying it will be more convenient for consumers.

The Washington, D.C.-based Distilled Spirts Council conservatively estimates that lifting Indiana's ban would generate between $5.7 million and $8 million in new revenue each year, Jenkins said.

A review of the measure by Indiana Legislative Services Agency reached the opposite conclusion, finding Sunday sales would likely not have a significant impact on revenue from alcoholic beverage taxes or the sales tax. The agency reasoned consumers are already buying all the beer and liquor they want so Sunday sales would not spur new business but just shift sales that would have occurred on another day.

Since 2002, 16 states have repealed Sunday bans on alcohol sales, Jenkins said, a trend that has been driven by consumer convenience and efforts by policymakers to increase revenue without imposing new taxes.

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