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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ind. Law - "New alcohol regulations served up"

Gavin Lesnick of the Evansville Courier & Press reports today:

New alcoholic beverage regulations and enforcement laws that went into effect July 1 in Indiana mean changes ranging from allowing alcohol sales on New Year's Day to limiting the number of permits allowed in each community to mandating training for beverage servers.

Indiana State Excise Police Master Officer Scott Bedwell said the new laws, which range from big changes to procedural tweaks, are among the most he has seen in any year.

"There have been quite a few additions to the laws this year," he said. "... I've been doing this for almost 18 years, and I think they've made some real good changes."

He said the most significant among them may be new outlines that significantly reduce the number of alcohol permits available for grocery and drug stores.

Beer dealer permits — for grocery and convenience stores — and liquor dealer permits — for drug stores — previously operated well beneath their quota of 82 in Evansville.

But the new laws set limits based on population and the quota is just 23 for Evansville for each type. There are 15 existing liquor dealer permits, but already more than 23 beer permits.

None will be rescinded, but under the new laws only two additional beer dealer permits now can be issued.

Restaurant permits in Evansville have long been over quota, meaning a business seeking to get one must purchase it from a current permit holder. Bedwell said they sometimes sell for up to $30,000 locally.

He said it's unclear if a similar situation will develop for beer and liquor dealers as the permits run out.

The new laws also establish a firm definition of grocery store for permit purposes. It includes traditional supermarkets, gas station convenience stores, combination food-merchandise stores such as Wal-Mart and specialty food stores.

Being included in the grocery store heading may help gas stations. Owners of those businesses frequently appear before the board to seek beer permits, Bedwell said. But the quota system may make it a moot point.

"With the numbers going down so much, the convenience store issue now is almost a nonissue," he said. "There won't be the permits available."

The new laws also offer some restrictions for convenience stores such as those at gas stations: They must submit sales numbers to the state, and no more than 25 percent of their gross sales other than gas can come from alcohol.

Other changes brought by the new laws include:

- Alcohol sales at grocery stores and liquor stores on New Year's Day now will be allowed.

- People who serve alcohol must undergo mandatory training.

- Anyone who wishes to speak at a county alcoholic beverage commission must be allowed to do so.

- It is now a class C misdemeanor for a minor to make a false statement of his age, up from an infraction. It is also a class B misdemeanor for a person to intentionally furnish alcohol to a minor. It becomes a class D felony if bodily injury or death results.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 13, 2008 10:51 AM
Posted to Indiana Law