Small Government Watch: Sunday Liquor Sales Continue to Be Banned

Chris Sikich, writing for the Indianapolis Star, has an article entitled Indiana legislature to continue ban on Sunday carry-out alcohol sales. House Public Policy Committee Chairman Bill Davis (R-Portland)has decided that a bill lifting the ban on Sunday sales of alcohol won’t get a committee vote.

Indiana will, therefore, remain the last state in the country banning Sunday sales of beer, wine, and liquor on Sundays at retail stores.

This law is a pointless anachronism, and it ought to be opposed by those ostensibly in favor of the free market and small government. At least rhetorically, Hoosier lawmakers are in favor of those things. There is no real reason why we should treat package liquor stores differently than other kinds of merchants who, all things being equal, would rather reduce competition with big box stores.

Of course, when it comes to Sunday alcohol sales, my real concern is not with those big philosophical issues. I can dress up my personal concerns in clothing of broad political and economic policy positions. But, in reality, I just want to be able to buy beer on Sundays. If this were a Tuesday ban on scrapbooking materials, I doubt the issue would ever grace this blog; because I would not care. Saturdays and Sundays are the days when I’m most likely to get out to a store. Beer is one of my favorite things to buy. So, it’s not infrequent that it occurs to me on a Sunday that I’d like to be able to pick up some beer.

And, that’s really the point, I think. It’s not just that liquor store owners want a day off. It’s also that Sundays are one of the days when customers are most likely to be in a big box store for something or other. If liquor is an option, customers will pick that up at the big box store while they’re out. On the other hand, if the customer has made his or her trip to the box store on Sunday; then has to make a separate trip for beer or wine, there is a bigger chance the customer will just drop by the package liquor store rather than hassling with the ginormous parking lot and crowds of people between him and his 6-pack.

Still, I’m selfish, the plight of the liquor store owner does not keep me awake nights when I’m contemplating my desire for slightly more convenient access to alcohol. But, fortunately, all is not lost. The General Assembly does permit me the liberty of going down to People’s Brewing and picking up a growler of Mr. Brown on a Sunday if I’m so inclined.


  1. Joe says

    Maybe Bill Davis doesn’t care because his constituents can easily drive 15 minutes across the border to Ohio if they’d like beer on Sunday. If only we were all so lucky.

  2. Carlito Brigante says

    I don’t have a “dog” in this fight (no pun intended, Dog.) My papal indulgence never went through so I cannot drink.

    The ban on Sunday sales was once a “quaint anachronism” that kept a few bootleggers happy.

    Just like the ban on car sales on Sunday quaintly allows auto dealers to hire more “family-oriented salesmen.”

    But as you noted, Dog, these are anti-competitive laws thatpartially hide under clergy robes. But what is more interesting is how the industry players line up.

    The mom and pop liquor stores are going fast. Small town stores are often small rural chains. Large city stores are city chains.

    It seems that the stores in bigger towns would gain sales as you suggest, while the big chains in the cities might lose some sales to the casual shopper at the big box. But the steady trade at the stores would make the short drive to the corner store and not fight the minvans and SUVs at Mega-Lo Mart.

    This is an opaque lobbyist dance and I wonder if the package store owners may split on this issue soon.

  3. Stuart says

    The current crop of “conservatives” are a strange mixture of free marketers and a sort of “Christian” fundamentalism heavily tinged with judgmental legalism. If they were one or the other, their thinking would be more consistent. Free marketers would let go of the anachronisms just discussed, and let capitalism reign, for good or ill. A real Christian spirit would be cognizant of a need for justice, consider the impact of poor healthcare and watch over kids’ needs, as in education and protective services. This way, we are getting the worst of both worlds. Just enough capitalism to benefit a few, and just enough legalistic religion to make things miserable for the rest.

    • Carlito Brigante says


      This way, we are getting the worst of both worlds. Just enough capitalism to benefit a few, and just enough legalistic religion to make things miserable for the rest.

      Damn straight!

  4. Chris S. says

    I moved from Bloomington to California about a year ago, and one of the most liberating experiences I’ve ever had was doing my grocery shopping at Safeway on a Sunday and being able to buy beer and bourbon. It was beautiful.

    Thing is, though, I still go to a dedicated liquor store most of the time. The fact that I CAN buy booze at a big box doesn’t really translate to me doing so at the expense of my shopping in liquor stores.

  5. says

    To my knowledge, Sunday car sales have never been illegal; that’s a gentleman’s agreement to keep labor costs down.

    Now then, as the resident opponent of Sunday sales (not really, but really):

    1) This (the bill dying in committee this time) could have been predicted by anyone who watched the original Sunday (per drink, on premises) debate, or the beer baron imbroglio, or the hard liquor in grocery stores slugfest, or the Fireworks I and Fireworks II (or any other “Freedom”) boondoggle: there hasn’t been the proper graft period yet. “No Committee vote” is another way of saying “Bring a bigger pony next year, elections ain’t cheap.”

    2) The “free enterprise” argument is a canard; this whole exercise is at the behest of the big, big, national chains and the 800 pound gorilla of Indiana licensed liquor distributorship, National Wine and Spirits. And their money. Allow retail license holders to buy direct from any distributor in the country, or directly from producers, and allow customers to do the same, without jumping through hoops, then you’ve begun to address the issue of “free” enterprise. Half a solution is only better than none if you’re in the Half that makes out like privateers.

    3) Yeah, the laws are antiquated, but every local package store, and every small restaurant with a liquor license played by the rules for seventy-five years. They shouldn’t be sacrificed willy-nilly to Wal*Mart and Kroger. They shouldn’t have their wine lists decided by what National finds profitable enough to bring in by the container.

    4) Plus, ain’t it about time we said enough graft is enough?

    5) I thought all you guys who couldn’t buy enough beer to cover a weekend were driving across state lines, depriving Indiana of $ millions in lost sales and excise taxes (but helping to pay for that highway system we built but can’t maintain)?

  6. Jack says

    Two points that bug me. First, that any one person in the assembly has the power to stop consideration of a matter legitimately proposed. Realize that the legislatures operate under a different parliamentary procedure authority than regular organizations, but such power allowed by one party is not according to most thinking on organizational operations. Second, all blue laws are simply outdated from an economic standpoint, a cultural standpoint, and serve a vested interest of a few.

  7. gizmomathboy says

    If nothing, it does give craft brewers a boost.

    How much would those sales suffer if Sunday sales were legal?

    It might not be much but it couldn’t hurt.

    I don’t really care either way.

  8. says

    I graduated from a liberal arts college. DePauw University taught me the powers of critical thinking, the histories of the lives of philosophers, and that eery Saturday I made damn sure I bought a case of beer for the next day. Perhaps that explained why I was well-liked by most of my fraternity brothers, particularly on Sundays. (It was an inconvenient drive that some made occasionally to West Terre Haute.) The purchase of beer on Saturday has been a ritual in my life for nearly—well, more than a few years. Nonetheless, this archaic law is ridiculous. I gladly will give up my weekly ritual.

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