Thursday, March 23, 2006

Part 2: The Indianapolis Star's "Sunday alcohol law" poll.

See yesterday’s post: Part 1: The Indianapolis Star's "Sunday alcohol law" poll.

When it comes to Indiana’s enduring “blue” law against Sunday package sales, I’ve spent more than two decades in a perpetual state of bemusement derived primarily from watching my state hemorrhage tax revenue into a neighboring state’s coffers on one of every seven days.

In my case, that beneficiary state is Kentucky – but on the other hand, a majority of people from central and northern Indiana believe that Kentucky begins just south of Columbus – maybe that should be Seymour, or how else do we explain John Mellencamp’s status as “Hoosier” icon?

Perhaps you have to live near a state line to grasp this.

Meanwhile, it comes as no surprise that fundamentalists, health fascists and professional anti-teen drinking lobbyists are opposed to an “expansion” of alcohol sales into Sunday – where they’re already allowed on-premise and have been for years, and even recently “expanded” from restaurants to any licensed facility that sells Fritos as its primary foodstuff.

Here’s that part of the poll that I found most intriguing:

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.

On the surface, this seems an exceedingly bizarre argument on behalf of mom ‘n’ pop package stores. One would imagine that if given the option of opening or not opening on Sunday, either mom or pop would be better placed to decide if the trade justifies it than the state legislature. If “yes,” someone goes into work on Sunday or must be hired to do so, and if “no,” the door need not be opened at all.

Same as on any other day of the week, right?

It’s not so simple, though. If one recalls that Livengood and the IABR were the prime movers of recent legislation requiring grocery store and drug store alcohol sales regulations to be tightened and brought into line with those applying to package stores, it all becomes very clear. The IABR’s support of Sunday as a “rest day” is intended primarily to keep Wal-Mart out of the game, even if it means excluding mom ‘n’ pop outlets, too.

The Indy Star didn’t dig that deep – but that’s what I’m here to do, anyway.

Kindly note that I have deep and abiding love and respect for the institution of the mom ‘n’ pop package store, and not just because I’ve spent so much money in such establishments. I cut my teeth stringing at one, and have good friends who own and work at others. Price competition from the supermarket chains and big boxes is oppressive for the mom ‘n’ pop shops, which survive in many locales solely because of half-pints and cold six-packs.

Unfortunately for the older generation of package store operators, few have shown an aptitude for reinventing their operations into distinctive and profitable niche market leaders in the fashion that my friend Todd has at Keg Liquors in Clarksville, where craft beers are increasingly important to the bottom line, and Todd is trying hard to provide the specialized knowledge so important to selling them successfully.

In the end, the bottom line is unchanged: Indiana’s remaining Sunday “blue” laws are laughable, and are a messy vestige of government interference in private decision making that has no place in contemporary Hoosier life. They should be gutted at the first opportunity, but remembering that this is Indiana, don’t hold your breath.

1 comment:

joe b said...

Yeah, Indiana alcohol laws are a mess. So are those of most of the other 49 states. My gripe concerns the comment on Blue Laws. We need them. Our crazy consumer, must have, must finance, must work 3 jobs to pay for society, needs to stop and smell the roses and/or the sewage. For to many Americans experience the great out dooors only in mall parking lots. A far more serious problem is that they are to busy accumulating goods to take time to analyze the issues and problems facing the state, country and world today, not to mention their family and individual life.
Close everything down for 1 day a week. Give civilization a chance.