Legislators seek to lift Indiana Sunday alcohol sale ban

By Mid-March of this year, an Indiana law that has existed since the Prohibition era is expected to be changed by state legislatures. Both the Indiana House and Senate have drafted and approved bills to lift Indiana’s infamous ban on the purchase of alcohol on Sundays.

The proposed change is receiving mixed reviews from Indiana residents. Indiana supermarkets and chains have come out in support of the new bill, while many Indiana liquor stores have opposed it.

Small liquor stores fear large grocery retailers will unfairly benefit from the new law. They complain grocery retailers already have an advantage due to their ability to sell alcohol in the presence of those under 21. In addition, small liquor stores are required to obtain special training for clerks and expensive licenses that grocers do not face. Liquor store owners fear that shoppers will simply grab alcohol off the shelves at grocery stores on Sundays rather than making a trip to their local liquor store.

Likewise, negative effects are expected by the owners of stores north of the Indiana-Michigan state line. These liquor stores have reaped the benefits of Indiana’s ban on Sunday alcohol purchases, as many Indiana residents avoid the ban by paying them a visit on Sundays. Stores just over the border in Michigan are expecting a significant loss in sales if Indiana legalizes the proposed changes. These owners have come out against the changes, but are hoping that long-time customers will retain their loyalty to Michigan stores even if the ban is lifted.

Many local residents are excited for the changes to go in effect. The proposition of lifting the ban has received a positive response among Indiana residents. A June study conducted by Ball State University and Old National Bank found that a majority of Hoosiers, 58 percent, supported permitting stores to sell alcohol on Sunday. Support for Sunday sales was also bolstered late last year following an agreement between the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers and the Indiana Retail Council.

Currently, 11 states other than Indiana cling to the so-called “blue laws.” These laws ban certain activities on Sundays for religious reasons, such as banning liquor on Sundays. These states are Alabama, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. Notably, Indiana is the only state in the country that bans beer, wine and liquor sales on Sundays.

Indiana also has many other intriguing alcohol laws, including one that restricts cold beer sales to liquor stores. Some are predicting that supermarkets and chains will go after that rule next if the Sunday ban is lifted, though the Indiana Retail Council, which represents supermarkets and other non-liquor stores, has stated it will not push for the repeal of the law.  

Legislators are feeling very positive that the proposed changes will pass when voted on in mid-March. On Wednesday, January 10, the Senate Public Policy Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 1, the bill which proposes overturning the ban on Sunday alcohol sales. Since then, there has been no chatter in opposition to the bill.

Initially, the new law, if passed in mid-March, was set to go into effect July 1. However, the House Public Policy Committee recently voted in favor of a change which would make the new policy go into effect as soon as Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signs it into law. State Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, the committee chairman and sponsor of the measure, is quoted as saying, “I think it’s time.” If Alting is right, Hoosiers could soon pick up their liquor with their Sunday groceries in time for Sunday dinner.

Claire Marie Kuhn is a junior studying political science and peace studies. You can email her at  ckuhn1@nd.edu.