Bacon: Indiana's alcohol laws need updated

Posted by: Hannah Carlock  | Monday, April 24, 2017 8:22 am

Every year, lawmakers make changes to Indiana’s alcohol laws, and this year was not an exception. A bill being considered as a new law will impact businesses and tourist attractions in our area.

House Enrolled Act 1496 deals with various alcohol matters and has been causing quite a stir in the media as it deals with how some Hoosier businesses conduct the serving of carryout alcohol.

Recently, a convenience store chain in central Indiana secured a restaurant permit in order to sell carryout cold beer and liquor. The convenience store followed all the requirements needed to obtain a restaurant alcohol license from the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. They set up a restaurant-style seating area and served hot food to order. However, this caught the General Assembly’s attention. While this might follow the letter of the law, it does not follow the spirit of the law. It is not the policy of the state of Indiana that retail settings, like convenience stores, should be able to sell carryout cold beer or hard liquor. This is reserved for package stores and traditional sit-down restaurants. This situation has lawmakers looking into modernizing and clarifying Indiana’s alcohol laws.

As of May 14, a restaurant would not be able to sell carryout alcohol unless 60 percent of their gross retail income was from alcohol sales consumed on restaurant property. However, city markets, marinas, state parks, golf courses, hotels, social or fraternal clubs and restaurant microbreweries are exempt from the 60 percent rule. 

An encouraging and noteworthy aspect of the bill would allow our local wineries and distilleries to welcome entire families. Currently, only adults over the age of 21 are allowed to visit or work at these attractions. A lot of wineries in our area also have a restaurant. This bill would allow families to come and enjoy themselves even if they have their children with them.

Most of our hometown wineries and distilleries are locally owned and family operated. This proposal would also allow owners’ family members that are minors to be involved and learn the family business by working within the winery or distillery, but are not allowed to sell or serve alcohol products.

With the proliferation of microbreweries, micro-distilleries and farm wineries across Southern Indiana, we have made great strides modernizing some aspects of our alcohol laws, but there is still more work to be done. Over the summer months, legislators will dive into the details and workings of Indiana’s liquor laws, so that we can come back in the coming sessions to iron out uncertainties and gaps. While we want to encourage business and tourism, we also need to keep minors, motorists and families safe.

As always, please contact me with questions or input at 317-232-9833 or by email at h75@iga.in.gov. I appreciate hearing from you in order to better represent our district. Stay up-to-date with the work being done at the Statehouse by signing up to receive my email updates at www.in.gov/h75.

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State Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler) represents House District 75,
which includes portions of Warrick, Pike and Spencer counties.

A high-resolution photo of Bacon can be downloaded by clicking here.