INDIANAPOLIS — Expanding the sale of cold beer in Indiana likely won’t happen without the hiring of more state excise officers and additional public support, the chair of the state’s Alcohol Code Revision Commission said Wednesday.
Before cold beer expansion becomes a reality, the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission needs better infrastructure to handle compliance checks and gather data, said former state Sen. Beverly Gard.
“There’s just a real lack of technology infrastructure in that commission,” Gard told attendees at the annual BGD Legislative Conference in Indianapolis. Because of that, she said, “by no fault of the ATC,” it was difficult to get data.
After holding seven meetings, the commission recommended to the Indiana General Assembly earlier this month that alcohol could be sold for carry-out —but not cold beer — on Sundays between noon and 8 p.m. Enforcement is monitored by the State Excise Police, which has 71 officers, not enough to take on expanding cold beer sales, Gard said.
Currently, cold beer can be sold only in package liquor stores.
Another recommendation to increase excise taxes on alcohol and permit fees could raise funds for problem-solving courts and the excise police.
Gard also said she would like to hear more public input on cold beer sales.
“I really think that cold beer won’t happen until the public really makes its voice heard,” she said.
She later said she would encourage more polls to be taken of the public’s attitude on sales.
The commission will meet again after the upcoming legislative session, but the panel is to focus on wholesale sales.
Another commission member, Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, also said the ATC was underfunded and understaffed.
The General Assembly is set to meet for 10 weeks, beginning Jan. 3.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, suggested that alcoholrelated recommendations be presented in separate bills; one to address Sunday sales, another for regulatory changes and another for fiscal matters.
On Wednesday, legislators expressed some weariness in addressing alcohol reform, as has been attempted in previous sessions.
“I think we’ve wrestled with this for the nearly 10 years that I’ve been in the legislature,” Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, said. “I think it’s time to settle the issue.”
Added Sen Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, “Let us have a vote on it and let’s move on. It shouldn’t stop us from dealing with all these more important issues. And there are more important issues whether it’s the opioid crisis, whether it’s redistricting reform or election reforms, whether it’s the fact that we finally need to be a state that moves off of (being) one of five states without a hate crime.”