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Monarch Beverage again fails in liquor distribution suit

December 17, 2015

Monarch Beverage Company’s arguments that Indiana alcohol wholesale laws are discriminatory fell flat at the Indiana Court of Appeals, marking the second time this week that attempts to overturn the state’s statutes regarding booze failed.

 In an opinion coming just over two weeks from the Dec. 1 oral arguments, the Court of Appeals found Monarch did not show that it was treated differently from any similarly situated class. The unanimous panel affirmed summary judgment in favor of the state in Monarch Beverage Company, Inc. v. David Cook, in his official capacity as Chairman of the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, et al., 49A02-1504-PL-245.
 
On Tuesday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Indiana’s law prohibiting convenience stores and gas stations from selling beer cold does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In the case before the Indiana Court of Appeals, Monarch made the argument that Indiana’s prohibitions on beer and liquor wholesalers distributing liquor violates Article 1, Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution, the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause. The COA instead provided the company with a lesson on constitutional law.    

“There can be no Equal Privileges and Immunities claim where all classes of person are treated equally,” Judge James Kirsch wrote for the court in a 14-page opinion.

Monarch asserted that state’s alcoholic beverage law provisions limiting wholesalers to distributing either beer or liquor violates the Indiana Constitution. The suds distributor contended the state statutes singled out beer wholesales for disparate treatment that was not justified by the difference between beer and liquor wholesalers.  

However, the Court of Appeals pointed out that Monarch could not identify a class who was receiving preferential treatment under Indiana’s Alcoholic Beverages Law’s Prohibited Interest Provisions. The distributor argued the provisions deny beer wholesalers the privilege of also being liquor wholesalers while affording that opportunity to everyone else.

Again the Court of Appeals noted Monarch does not explain who “everyone else” is, nor does it identify any class that is treated differently.

“Pursuant to the Prohibited Interest Provisions, all persons who seek to obtain a wholesaler’s permit from the (Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission) are treated equally and have an equal opportunity to choose to become either a beer wholesaler or a liquor wholesaler, and after a choice has been made, beer and liquor wholesalers are equally prohibited from acquiring a permit to distribute any other alcohol except for wine,” Kirsch wrote.

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