Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Part 1: The Indianapolis Star's "Sunday alcohol law" poll.

It usually isn’t my habit to reprint entire stories from other sources, but I’m making an exception today for the simple reason that the piece is from the Indy Star, a newspaper in the Gannett stable, and Internet readers are given only one week to read Gannett newspaper articles before they're relegated to the for-pay archive.

The Curmudgeon intensely dislikes this practice, but as my friend Buddy (who’s on the Gannett payroll in Louisville) frequently remarks, it’s guh-NETT – as in “net” profit.

I’ll reserve my comments about the poll results for Thursday’s episode of the Curmudgeon. For now, read and absorb.


March 20, 2006

Indianapolis Star poll: Half of Hoosiers oppose lifting Sunday alcohol laws; Support for liquor sales restrictions remains strong.

Hoosiers who favor keeping state laws that prevent most Sunday alcohol sales outnumber those who oppose the restrictions, according to a new poll.

Fifty percent of those surveyed favored keeping the current laws, while 43 percent supported allowing more Sunday sales of beer, wine and liquor, according to a poll commissioned by The Indianapolis Star. The poll, conducted Feb. 28 to March 2, is based on the responses of 501 residents statewide.

The poll, conducted by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

A wide range of groups oppose expanding liquor sales at convenience, grocery and liquor stores to seven days a week, from conservative Christians to advocates trying to curb underage drinking and even mom-and-pop liquor store operators anxious to preserve their one day off.

Pam Ingram, 49, from the southwestern Indiana town of Bloomfield, said she doesn't see anything wrong with having one day without alcohol sales in stores. "I just don't see a purpose for the sales," said Ingram, who added that she does not consider herself anti-alcohol. "If you want it on Sunday, there are six other days you can get it."

Rural residents were less likely to support Sunday store sales than urbanites, according to the poll. Rosemary Eads, 50, who lives in Indianapolis' Fountain Square area, said stores should be allowed to sell alcohol to compete with restaurants and bars.

"If they can, then I don't understand why grocery stores can't," she said. "It doesn't make sense."

Religion also is related to how people feel about the issue, said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co.

"In a state like Indiana, there's a fairly substantial number of born-again Christians, so the results aren't surprising," she said, "but they don't account for everyone."

Darrin Jackman, 37, Plainfield, said he hoped Sunday sales would remain banned out of respect for Sunday as a religious day. Jackman, a Christian, said he occasionally drinks but considers Sunday to be special.

"The day should remain sacred and holy," he said.

Economics, however, should prompt a move to Sunday sales, a grocery and convenience store lobbyist said. Grant M. Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council, said allowing Sunday sales provides convenience for shoppers and helps retailers sell inventory.

"Customers often use free time on Sunday to catch up on everything in their busy lives, including shopping," he said. "Many do their shopping on Sunday and would like to purchase alcohol."

The General Assembly did not address Sunday liquor sales this year, but Monahan said he hopes the law will one day be reconsidered.

Not everyone associated with the liquor industry favors relaxing the Sunday "blue laws," as the laws are also called. The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which represents liquor stores, is against Sunday package sales.

John Livengood, the organization's president, said many liquor stores are family-run businesses where Sunday is their only day off. He said there may not be enough customers for liquor stores to warrant being open an additional day.

"People are just used to buying on Saturdays or Mondays," he said.

Limiting Sunday sales also makes it for difficult for minors to obtain alcohol, said Lisa Hutcheson, director of the Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking. She said she thinks many Hoosiers believe it is a positive thing to limit alcohol sales for at least one day.

"If you want alcohol on Sunday, why can't you just buy it on Saturday?" she said.

Ingram said that she and many others hope Indiana's alcohol laws won't change soon to allow Sunday package liquor sales.

"I don't have anything against drinking," she said, "but I don't see a need to expand the laws."

Sidebar: A divided state.

Indiana laws prohibit the sale of alcohol in grocery, convenience and liquor stores on Sundays. A recent Indianapolis Star poll asked Hoosiers whether they favor or oppose such sales.

• Oppose Sunday sales: 50 percent

• Favor Sunday sales: 43 percent

• Not sure: 7 percent

Behind the numbers.

Here's a deeper look at The Star poll on whether alcohol sales should be permitted in stores on Sundays:

• Gender: Men feel more strongly than women about allowing alcohol sales in stores on Sundays. Forty-nine percent of men support Sunday sales compared with 36 percent of women.

• Age: A majority of poll respondents younger than 35 support Sunday sales; less than one-third of poll respondents older than 55 agree.

• Geography: Rural residents were less inclined than urban or suburban residents to support Sunday sales. But support for Sunday sales did not top 50 percent in any geographic grouping.

• Religion: Nearly 70 percent of those people who identify themselves as born-again Christians oppose Sunday sales.

The laws.

In Indiana, alcohol sales end at 3 a.m. Sundays and resume at 7 a.m. Mondays. By-the-drink sales are allowed from 10 a.m. Sundays to 12:30 a.m. Mondays.

By-the-drink sales on Sundays began in 1983, and the law was modified in 2004 to allow drink sales to start at 10 a.m. instead of noon. Any restaurant or bar with a valid liquor license can sell alcohol on Sundays; the General Assembly removed restrictions based on food sales during the 2005 session.

About the poll.

The Indianapolis Star poll was conducted by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, from Feb. 28 to March 2.

The poll is based on telephone interviews with 501 Indiana residents age 18 and older. Interviewers contacted households using randomly selected telephone numbers.

The sample was drawn in such a way that every household equipped with a land-line telephone had an equal chance of being contacted. The poll was adjusted by age and race to reflect Indiana's population age 18 and older.
Most questions in the poll have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points at a confidence level of 95 percent for the full sample. The poll asked this question:

Would you favor or oppose allowing the sale of beer, wine and liquor in stores on Sundays?

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