It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, as a regular consumer of adult beverages you would think nothing would surprise me
when it comes to the silliness and inconsistency of some state's alcohol laws, which at times
can border on the sublime, to the ridiculous. And I'm not talking about some of those very
funny archaic laws that are still technically on the books that are never ever enforced. I just
came across a wachy law that is contemporary and enforced in the state of Indiana. It seems
that is the only state that regulates beer sales based on temperature. Yes, temperature. I only
learned about this when I read that the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store
Association (IPCA) have filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against Indiana challenging the
law governing the sale of cold beer.
Under current law, convenience, grocery and pharmacy stores are only allowed to sell beer
warm, while their competitors in the carryout market are allowed to sell beer cold. The current
law does not apply to wine products, allowing everyone to sell these products cold. IPCA claims
this law violates their equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution by restricting their
member stores to selling beer only at room temperature. In the complaint, they charge that
state statutes and regulations have evolved into an irrational and discriminatory regulatory
regime that favors one class of retailer over another. So think about this: you could be at a
strip mall with a grocery store, a liquor store and a pharmacy and could buy the same beer at
all three. The only difference is the beer at the liquor store will be cold and the other warm by
Let me be clear about this Bill. I'm not talking about whether grocery stores or liquor stores
should be allowed to carry certain products. I'm talking about the same product - beer - and at
what temperature it can be sold. There really isn’t much more to it.
It would be one thing if the law prohibited both cold beer and wine sales in Indiana grocery and
convenience stores but it doesn’t. You can buy cold wine in a grocery store, but the beer has
to be sold at room temperature. I have been looking for a rational basis for this law and have
come to the conclusion that even you would struggle finding the rationale for this one.
Imagine the moment when for the first time a citizen of Indiana could actually run to the grocery
store and picking up a case of cold beer. Silly to us here in New York but not so to some of our
fellow countrymen and beer drinkers Oh, one last thing, even if that law were to change they
still couldn't buy beer on a Sunday. Now don't get me started on that one.
Come on law makers in Indiana, join the rest of us i the 21st Century!
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next month.
Hey Gina, I realize people love it when we get into a good back and forth argument but this is a
tough one for me to defend but I'll give it a shot even if my heart's not in it. First off, I'm guessing
that the Indiana state legislature felt comfortable giving a license to sell cold beer to liquor stores
and not to grocery or convenience type stores because liquor stores are generally considered
to be the principal outlet for alcohol. Since that is the case employees there are better trained to
enforce and maintain an age-restricted environment. Remember Gina, in Indiana minors are not
even allowed in a formal liquor store. That saves a lot of headaches.
Now as to the temperature, people will tend to drink cold beer immediately but will wait to chill
warm beers. Underage drinkers don't like to wait, so, restricting the sale of cold beer to places
that have strong track records of enforcing age restrictions makes some sense.
I have another argument for you. We may agree that while the dynamic of the current law may
seem a bit awkward to most people there are several things to seriously consider. . First up is the
21st Amendment. It's the one that ended thankfully ended that failed experiment known as
Prohibition. The amendment specifically gives each state the right to regulate alcohol sales not
the federal government. So to put it simply Indiana can pretty much do whatever it wants short of
a complete ban of all alcohol beverage. The majority of the people of Indiana have spoken
through their duly elected representatives that they want it this way. So by extension democracy
demands we support their decision and not judge it with our New York sensibilities.
In every state in the USA liquor stores have a lot more stringent rules to follow than the other
places that sell alcohol. In fact most liquor stores can't sell things such as milk or cold soda. So
the claim that convenience type stores are being discriminated against doesn't say me since the
liquor establishment can say the same thing. At the end of the day, it all evens out.
The US Constitution reserves some powers to the state and things like this are one of them. The
courts have consistently upheld almost all state rules. However, to be fair I have to tell you there
have been times when the courts have ruled that the states have gone too far. For example, the
courts struck down a Florida law that mandated all beer and wine vendors do business in cash,
but not liquor vendors. Very recently, a federal court in Kentucky struck down a law that allowed
a pharmacy that sells groceries to sell wine and liquor, but prohibited a grocery store that sell
pharmaceutical products from selling the same products.
Having said all of that, my bottom line on all this - hope you're sitting down Gina - is that in reality
I totally agree with you. The arguments against temperature regulations are stronger than those
for it so Indiana should just get rid of them. Oh my, did I really just agree with you? Maybe I
should be the one sitting down.
Here's looking at you, kid! See you next month.