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Indiana House takes step forward to close cold beer loophole

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH/AP) – As the Indiana House took a step toward blocking cold beer sales, some legislators think all alcohol laws need to be reviewed.

The discussion stems from what’s sold in coolers at two gas stations in Indiana. On Monday, a six pack made its way from Ricker’s gas station to the House Public Policy committee.

“Went in there, nice little restaurant area, it was full of high school kids on their lunch break, walked past them, went up to the counter, ordered a six pack,” State Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) said. “They followed the law, and delivered it to me.”

Last month, Ricker’s started to sell cold beer at two sites. But this could change.

Last week, a Senate committee passed a bill blocking Ricker’s cold sales. On Monday, a House committee did as well. In order to sell cold beer, the House said, a store would need to make 30 percent profit from customers drinking at the business.

“Now we’re coming in and changing the rules of the game on them, and saying if you want to have a permit moving forward you have to meet this new threshold that we put in place,” State Rep. Terri Austin (D-Anderson) said. “We would never do that to any other entity.”

The House bill allows Ricker’s to keep its license. However, in order to get renewal next year, it would need to prove 30 percent of its sales comes from people buying alcohol to drink at the gas station.

“I think it’s important that we stop the process today, and that we move forward, and try and find a solution over the summer,” State Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) said.

Ricker’s might lose its license, but other businesses are happy. Originally, a House change would’ve required specialty food shops to make 51 percent sales in food.

“We have over 500 people that have signed a petition just to keep us in business,” Tasteful Times owner Jonathan Sadler said. “I personally had over 300 copies of emails that had been sent to legislators come into my inbox,” Grapevine Cottage owner Doug Pendleton said.

But lawmakers took that out. A sigh of relief for now, but with more votes looming, changes could be coming.

“We’ve got to wait and see what happens on the House floor, and the Senate floor,” Pendleton said. “So we’ll cross our fingers and keep fighting.

“We feel cautiously optimistic about that,” Sadler said. “But we are not out of the woods by any stretch.”

We won’t have to wait long. A second reading is scheduled to take place on the Senate version Monday, with a vote possible Tuesday.

This is the final week for bills to be voted on, so we should have an answer about both bills by Thursday. As for Ricker’s, the owner isn’t going down quietly.

He’ll be at the statehouse with a food truck Tuesday, delivering burritos to lawmakers. We’ll see if that could sway minds his business is more than a gas station.

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