NEW: America's Dumbest Drinks Laws

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In honor of Repeal Day, we released a new drinks report! Earlier this year, our DrinksReform team put out a call for readers to send us examples of the craziest, whackiest, most nonsensical alcohol laws they could find. We scoured the Internet, interviewed industry players, and combed through state legal codes to find the “worst of” when it came to booze laws across the country. Today, we debut the culmination of that effort, a new report titled “America’s Dumbest Drinks Laws.”

That’s right, we picked the 12 dumbest drinks laws in America and ranked them. We’ll let you read the report for the full rankings, but we wanted to pass along one happy note: The “winner” of the #1 worst alcohol law—a 1834 federal law that banned Native Americans from distilling on tribal grounds—was recently relegated to the dustbin of history. A bill repealing this outdated and offensive law passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and is headed to the President’s desk.

R Street’s Kevin Kosar and Jarrett Dieterle wrote the first article in any mainstream outlet about the Native American distilling ban when they penned an op-ed earlier this year in the New York Times calling for the law’s repeal. We like think to think that we get results at the R Street Institute, and we’re proud that the law we targeted as the #1 worst alcohol law in the country has officially been eliminated.

Now, onward to #2 and #3! (Looking at you, North Carolina and Indiana …)

Check out the full report here—and prepare to be outraged! For a more condensed summary of the report, Dieterle wrote a Repeal Day piece for the Washington Examiner about it.

Additional media coverage for the report:

Cold Beer Sales Unlikely to Come to Indiana Anytime Soon


Over the last several years, pressure has grown for Indiana lawmakers to repeal the state’s notorious “warm beer law,” which prohibits gas stations and convenience stores from selling refrigerated beer. According to the Indianapolis Star, however, state legislators are unlikely to take up reform in the coming year:

Don't expect Indiana lawmakers to expand cold beer sales or allow happy hours next year. 

As a committee finishes a two-year project to recommend updates to the state's alcohol laws, it's clear splashy changes are off the table — at least for now.

That comes as no surprise. After finally voting to expand Sunday sales earlier this year, lawmakers signaled they were going to take a more conservative approach in the 2019 session…

Read more here.

Indiana Stores Resort to Cooler Bags To Serve Cold Beer

Image courtesy of   The Journal Gazette

Image courtesy of The Journal Gazette

Indiana gas stations and convenience stores have long suffered a fate that their counterparts in surrounding states have never had to endure: They are forced to sell warm beer to customers. R Street's Jarrett Dieterle has written about Indiana's warm beer law and has documented the recent failed attempts to repeal it. According to The Journal Gazette, Indiana stores are now resorting to ever-more-creative measures to provide their customers with something as simple as chilled beer:

Convenience stores throughout Indiana are taking a new tack in the quest to be able to sell cold beer – a reusable bag that will chill beer and other beverages in just 15 minutes...

Convenience stores have long fought for the ability to sell carryout cold beer but lawmakers continue to side with liquor stores, who have that exclusive right. Indiana is the only state that regulates the sale of beer based on temperature...

A news release said with the reusable Chill Indiana glacier bag, the customer makes a one-time purchase of a bag and then is allowed free access to ice from the store’s fountain machine on subsequent purchases. An ice-filled bag will take a bottle or can from room temperature to an acceptable consumable temperature in just 15 minutes, and it keeps that beverage cold for hours...

More here. Despite this creative stop-gap solution, Indiana store owners are still hoping to repeal the warm beer law someday.


The Drinks Are Freed: Indiana Finally Allows Sunday Sales


We've noted in the past that Indiana has one of the most stringent Sunday blue laws on the books--it forbid all sales of carryout alcohol on Sundays. But now, after years of wrangling, state lawmakers have finally voted to allow Sunday booze sales and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed the measure. Drinks writer Chuck Cowdery recaps:

"This Sunday, for the first time ever, Indiana's liquor stores will be open for business. Indiana becomes the 41st state to allow Sunday liquor sales, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

You might expect liquor store owners to celebrate the change, but they won't. Such is the peculiarity of politics in the highly-regulated world of alcohol.

Consumers, of course, almost universally favor Sunday sales. Those with religious objections are mainly the ones who don't. Also unhappy about the change are liquor retailers in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky who enjoyed a little extra business on Sundays from thirsty Hoosiers..."

Read Chuck's full post here.

As Chuck notes, Indiana lawmakers weren't able to clear away all of the state's antiquated booze laws. The Hoosier State's infamous "warm beer law" still remains in place.




Sunday Alcohol Sales On the Brink of Passage in Indiana


We've been extensively covering the push to repeal Indiana's "blue law," which is one of the most restrictive in the country. According to the Indianapolis Star, a bill allowing Sunday carryout alcohol sales is finally on the brink of passage:

"Hoosiers could begin purchasing carryout alcohol on Sunday for the first time in state history on March 4, barring any unexpected developments at the Statehouse. 

That date is not certain, but it does seem likely after the the Indiana House voted 82-10 on Tuesday to end the state's unpopular ban on Sunday take-out alcohol sales.

The measure still requires one more vote in the Senate, but it is largely procedural since the Senate already passed an almost identical version. It would then go to Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has said he plans to sign it into law. 

That puts the bill on pace to be signed into law as early as next week, and because it was recently amended to take effect upon passage, Hoosiers could purchase alcohol the following Sunday, March 4..."

Read the rest here.

Indiana's Unique "Winery Lockout" Law


Indiana is one of many states that permits wineries to ship their wine directly to consumers, but there's a big caveat: You have to choose between direct wine shipments or working with a wholesaler. As the Wine Industry Advisor points out, this puts Hoosier State wineries in a tough position:

"While Indiana is one of 44 states that allow legal direct to consumer shipments from wineries, the Hoosier State stands out from the other 43 states in one important and anti-competitive way: Indiana is the only state that prohibits wineries from carrying both a legal direct shipping license and a relationship with a wholesaler. The wholesaler-winery relationship is an important one as it is the only way a winery can sell their wines to Indiana’s restaurants and liquor stores.

Presented with an “either/or” dilemma, wineries must elect to either sell their wines through wholesaler middlemen, or directly to consumers, but not both. Regardless of how a winery chooses to sell their wine in the state, in the end, it is Indiana’s wine lovers who are the ultimate losers..."

Read the rest here.

Another Step Toward Sunday Booze Sales in Indiana


As the brouhaha (don't call it a brewhaha) over Indiana's outdated alcohol laws continues, a key legislative committee has advanced a bill that would liberalize the state's current restriction on Sunday alcohol sales:

"For the first time ever, a key Indiana Senate committee has approved a measure allowing carryout Sunday alcohol sales.

The Senate Public Policy Committee, typically a graveyard for such bills, voted unanimously Wednesday to allow convenience, grocery, drug and liquor stores to sell alcohol from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

The measure, Senate Bill 1, now moves to the full Senate.

The historic vote is the most significant step yet in the effort to end Indiana’s Sunday sales ban, which has been in place since federal Prohibition ended in 1933..."

Read more here.

Despite the progress with Sunday sales, Indiana's reform efforts have still been unable to rid the state of its notorious "warm beer" law.  A state Senate panel voted 9-1 against legislation that would have allowed convenience stores and gas stations to sell cold beer, which likely means reform will have to wait another year (at least).

Indiana's Warm Beer Law Survives Again


We've been monitoring the latest efforts to reform Indiana's alcohol laws--particularly the state's infamous warm beer law and its strict prohibition on Sunday booze sales. A state legislative commission recently passed a recommendation to allow Sunday sales, but a vote on whether to recommend allowing gas stations and grocery stores the ability to sell cold beer failed by the narrowest of margins:

"The prospect of getting a cold six-pack at your local grocery store has once again fallen flat.

After a nail-biter vote, a panel working to revise Indiana’s alcohol laws will not recommend allowing pharmacies, grocers and convenience stores to sell cold beer — something that has long been the well-protected province of liquor stores. 

The recommendation failed even though the vote was 8-7 in favor. That's because 9 of the 17 members had to vote in favor of the recommendation for it to pass. Two members — Gina-Gail Fletcher and Alex Huskey — were absent. 

The tight vote was even more dramatic because one member — Judge William Boklund — switched his vote in the middle of the roll call, joining proponents of cold beer access.

The result was a big blow for consumers who want to be allowed to buy cold beer for carryout at convenience, grocery and drug stores. Right now, only liquor stores are permitted to sell cold beer for carryout in Indiana, with few exceptions...."

Read the rest here.

In Indiana, Sunday Sales Gain Traction but the Beer Stays Warm


Indiana has two of the most notorious alcohol laws on the books: a broad prohibition against Sunday carryout sales and a rule preventing convenience stores and gas stations from selling chilled beer. Despite polls indicating that Indiana residents are strongly in favor of Sunday sales and cold beer, reform efforts to change these laws have thus far failed. According to the IndyStar, a new alliance may open up Sunday sales but still leave Hoosier State residents stuck with warm brews:

"Liquor stores and the trade group representing big-box grocers say they have forged an alliance that could lead to them selling alcohol in Indiana on Sundays for the first time since Prohibition.

But the unlikely accord between the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers and the Indiana Retail Council opposes the expansion of cold beer sales and has drawn the ire of another key interest group: convenience stores, which have been fighting for years to win state approval to sell cold beer.

While the once-warring parties to the agreement hailed it as a landmark alliance to forcefully push for Sunday sales, convenience store owners blasted it as a back-room deal too narrow to merit consideration by the state legislature.

“They are cutting a deal which greatly benefits themselves, at the expense of Hoosiers who have identified the cold beer prohibition as the No. 1 alcohol reform needed in the state,” said Scot Imus, executive director of the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association..."

Read the rest here.

Indiana Residents Support Cold Beer and Sunday Sales


In addition to basketball, Indiana is famous for its, er, unique alcohol laws. Not only does Indiana's "warm beer law" forbid convenience stores and gas stations from selling chilled beer, but the Hoosier State also has one of the most stringent blue laws in the country (forbidding all sales of carryout alcohol on Sundays). Unsurprisingly, these laws hurt consumers in the state and remain deeply unpopular, according to the Indy Star:

"Solid majorities of Hoosiers support expanding both cold beer and Sunday alcohol sales, according to a new poll.

Some 61 percent of Hoosiers favor expanding cold beer sales and 58 percent favor Sunday carryout sales, according to the Old National Bank/Ball State University 2017 Hoosier Survey. 

The poll of 600 Hoosiers, conducted in early October, found the margin of support for expanding alcohol sales widened from 2014, when similar questions were asked. For cold beer, support was 30 percentage points greater than opposition; for Sunday sales, it was 28 points higher...

The results, provided to IndyStar, come as a legislative commission is considering whether to recommend changes to Indiana’s alcohol laws. Currently, the sale of cold beer for carryout is limited mostly to package liquor stores. Sunday alcohol sales for carryout are prohibited outside breweries, wineries and distilleries.

The question is whether public opinion carries more weight than powerful interests, led by the state’s liquor store industry, which has successfully lobbied the Indiana General Assembly to block cold beer expansion and thwart wider Sunday alcohol sales..."

Read more here.