House rejects changes to Sunday alcohol sales bill

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An effort to dial back proposed restrictions on grocery, convenience and drug stores in a bill that would legalize Sunday carryout alcohol sales was narrowly defeated Thursday in the Indiana House of Representatives.

This session is the first time legislation to lift the state's 80-year-old ban on Sunday alcohol sales has made it so far in the Legislature, but critics said the regulations on big-box retailers could hinder the bill's chances of advancing.

The bill would require that all beer and wine be kept in a designated area, with hard liquor stored behind the counter. All clerks would have to be 21 or older and have mandated training, and consumers would no longer be able to buy hard liquor through a self-service checkout.

Bill sponsor Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, said he believes the proposal would boost consumer convenience but also encourage "responsible retailing."

House Majority Leader Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, proposed the amendment considered Thursday that would allow liquor to be kept with beer and wine as long as security caps are placed on every bottle. The area would also need to be under 24-hour surveillance.

"This will provide a much more safe way for it to be sold on every day of the week. Not just Sundays," McMillin said. The small change also would provide "the best middle ground" between the two groups deeply invested in the argument, he said.

Grocery chains, convenience stores and pharmacies have long supported allowing retail alcohol sales on Sunday. But they say segregating liquor from other alcoholic products would create longer checkout lines and inconvenience consumers. Liquor store owners, who originally opposed Sunday sales for fear of increased overhead costs without additional revenue, are now standing behind the proposal.

The amendment came down to two votes and was defeated 47-45. House members also defeated by a wide margin another amendment that would have continued the ban on Sunday sales.

The full House could vote on approving the original measure as soon as Monday, which would send the issue to the Senate for consideration.

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