A state law protecting Hoosier liquor stores from competitors based in other states, including Illinois, could be eliminated from the Indiana statutes as soon as July 1.

The Indiana House voted 90-4 Thursday to advance to the Senate legislation updating and changing a variety of Indiana alcohol laws.

Among the provisions in House Bill 1396 is the deletion of a requirement that liquor store owners be bona fide residents of Indiana for at least five years to qualify for a state alcohol sales permit.

That law, enacted in 2015 by Republican Gov. Mike Pence at the insistence of Indiana’s powerful liquor store lobby, blocked the plans of Chicago-based Binny's Beverage Depot to acquire several liquor stores in Northwest Indiana.

State Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, the sponsor of this year’s 48-page omnibus alcohol legislation, said Indiana has no choice but to scrap the extended residency requirement following a 2019 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The nation’s high court, in its 7-2 Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas decision, concluded Tennessee’s two-year residency requirement to obtain a retail liquor store license ran afoul of the U.S. Constitution and struck it down.

Indiana’s five-year residency requirement likely would be similarly deemed unconstitutional if challenged in court, so Smaltz said it needs to come off the books.

If the legislation also is approved by the Senate, and eventually signed into law by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, it currently is scheduled to take effect July 1.
© Copyright 2021, nwitimes.com, Munster, IN