John Boroughs drank a Budweiser tall boy to toast what he believes is his right to buy a cold beer on Sunday.
He was joined by about 60 others in a standing-room-only crowd inside one of the current epicenters of the alcohol law debate, a Ricker’s convenience store in Columbus.
The store legally obtained a state license to sell cold beer in March but the legislature hit back with a law that will likely take that license away next year.
“I think that was a shady move because they did try to go by the law,” he said.
His beer came from a cooler inside the store where employees check IDs and serve from a refrigerated shelf behind the counter. He sat in one of 28 seats at the store which had been refitted to obtain a restaurant license.
Like-minded Libertarians from Jackson and Bartholomew counties participated in a Drink In for Liberty in support of reforming Indiana’s alcohol laws.
Jay and Nancy Ricker, co-founders of the Anderson-based chain, were on hand.
“We’re the only state in the nation that has a warm beer and cold beer law. I don’t think people understand how unique, in a bad way, Indiana is in that respect,” Nancy Ricker said.
Jay Ricker said that alcohol reform isn’t limited to the Libertarian rally.
“I think it’s a good subject for other parties to seize to show that a lot of time constituents’ wishes aren’t being reflected in the laws,” Jay Ricker said.
Although Steven Buffington doesn’t drink alcohol, he was at Ricker’s as vice chair of the Jackson County Libertarian party.
“It’s all about principle for me. We should be able buy where we want to, when we want to, how we want to. If the state is going to try to push markets on us and force to buy from specific places, I don’t think that’s reasonable or fair,” Buffington said.
The Columbus store was one of two Ricker’s outlets that obtained restaurant permits, allowing for the sale of cold beer. Indiana law allows cold beer carryout sales only at package liquor stores.
Sunday’s gathering, however, won’t meet new state requirements that 60 percent of Ricker’s cold beer sales, and those with similar new restaurant permits, must be consumed on the premises.
But the Drink In was aiming to underscore that Indiana’s alcohol laws need reform.
“What I don’t like is the government making decisions on who can sell things,” said customer Brent Land. “The only reasons for not allowing other high-volume retailers to sell it cold is the package liquor lobby ... When the government supports that, is the government trying to prop up a dying business model?”
For the next two years, a legislative commission is to review the laws, focusing this summer on retail sales. No hearing dates have been set.
About 71 percent of Hoosiers favor allowing all state-licensed retailers the right to sell cold beer, according to a survey released last week by the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association which supports Ricker’s efforts.
The survey of 600 registered voters also showed that 65 percent supported Sunday carryout sales and that 64 percent favored a repeal of the restriction on liquor.
However, 67 percent opposed allowing minors into liquor stores and 59 percent opposed restricting the sale of spirits to only liquor stores.
The latter survey result could harm package liquor stores sales, a spokesman said.
“Indiana must continue to have strict alcohol regulations because when abused or used irresponsibly alcohol can destroy lives, families, and communities,” said Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers Vice Chair Jon Sinder in response to the survey.
“Big Oil is well-intentioned with their polls and campaign. However, they miss the point — alcohol is a dangerous commodity. It is not meant to be convenient.”
Sinder added, “As our state continues to be embroiled in a deepening addiction crisis, it is more important than ever that we look for ways to control access to potentially fatal commodities, not continue down the road of deregulation.”