Back in the late 1990s when I was a reporter and page designer for Louisville Eccentric Observer (now known as LEO Weekly), I had to work every Sunday morning/afternoon in preparation for Tuesday’s deadline. During football season, my routine was to go home afterward and watch football the rest of the day with a six-pack of beer at my side.
But in those days, I lived in Jeffersonville, Ind. This meant making sure I stopped in downtown Louisville to get beer before crossing the river after work, because everyone in the Midwest knows you can’t buy beer on Sunday in Indiana. (Yes, I am one of those who has experienced going to Mike Walsh Liquor & Beer on Market on a Sunday afternoon, and noting that three fourths of the vehicles bore Indiana plates. Shame the Louisville Beer Store wasn’t around back then.)
This year, a bill was proposed in Indiana that would have allowed Sunday alcohol sales at grocery stores and other retail shops, but Rep. Bill Davis, chairman of the House Public Policy Committee, wouldn’t let a committee vote on it. And so, my Hoosier friends will continue to envy me the fact I can, after 1 p.m., buy beer on any given Sunday.
What is particularly annoying, I think, is that Indiana’s continued refusal to allow Sunday sales, along with cold beer sales in grocery stores and convenience stores, has nothing to do with the Sabbath and antiquated ideals, but rather everything to do with the special interests of the package liquor store lobby, which has deep connections with members of the Indiana General Assembly. It isn’t about God; quite simply, the liquor stores are afraid of the competition.
“Allowing Sunday sales would be a slow death,” Raymond Cox, owner of Elite Beverages, told The Indianapolis Star. “Allowing cold beer would put us out of business overnight.”
Here’s what I have to say about that: I live in a Louisville neighborhood that has a Kroger, multiple convenience stores, and a CVS where one can easily buy cold beer and (at the drugstores, at least) wine and liquor, on any given day, including Sunday. And yet, Gary’s Liquors, which is surrounded by these businesses, continues to thrive, even adding a drive-through lane within the last two years.
Are Kentucky and Indiana apples and oranges? I have to believe Gary’s survives by offering a wider selection of craft beers, quality wine and liquor. Unlike at Kroger, Thornton’s or CVS, which typically carry big distributor brands only, I can walk into Gary’s and know I can pick up a six-pack of Falls City or Bluegrass Brewing Company beers. (And really, even with Kroger’s mix-and-match deal, wherein you make your own six-pack of “craft” beers, one of the choices is Landshark. The hell?)
Well, this long-running idiocy (five decades and counting), as you probably have already heard, has prompted a lawsuit. Not sure you can fight a state government leaders who have an agenda, but it will be interesting to see if this gets anywhere. Past efforts have been similarly stifled, although at least they gave Hoosiers a way to get a growler to go on Sundays, so maybe there’s hope for change.
Meantime, my condolences continue to go out to my Indiana friends who may want to enjoy a six-pack on a Sunday evening. Keep on doing your package beer shopping on Saturday, and keep those fingers crossed.