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Monday, December 14, 2015

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today, re sale of cold beer by convenience stores

In Indiana Petroleum Marketers v. David Cook (SD Ind., Young), a 13page decision, Judge Sykes writes:

An association of Indiana convenience stores filed this lawsuit seeking to invalidate a state law that restricts the sale of cold packaged beer. The suit claims the law violates the Equal Protection Clause because some kinds of stores may sell cold beer but grocery and convenience stores may not. The district court upheld the law and entered judgment for Indiana.

We affirm. A threshold question is the extent to which the Twenty-first Amendment affects this case. Indiana argues it has “nearly absolute” authority to regulate alcohol sales under the Twenty-first Amendment and no further analysis is necessary. That’s not correct. But the district court was right to uphold the law. Indiana’s cold-beer statute is subject to rational-basis review and survives that lenient standard. * * *

Indiana explains that the goal of this regulatory scheme is to curb underage beer consumption by limiting the sale of immediately consumable cold beer. Restricting the sale of cold beer to stores that are more rigorously regulated is rationally related to that legitimate goal.

The Association attacks this legislative choice with several policy arguments: beer is beer, and grocery and convenience stores already sell it, just not cold; grocery and convenience stores are permitted to sell chilled drinks with higher alcohol content (like wine coolers) so why not chilled beer; grocery and convenience stores have a better record of compliance with state alcohol laws than liquor stores; grocery and convenience stores are frequented by police officers and other adult customers, deterring underage persons from trying to buy alcohol there; and selling beer in refrigerators makes it less accessible than selling it warm.

This mode of argument doesn’t suffice under rational-basis review. To succeed on its claim, the Association must “negative every conceivable basis which might support” the statutory scheme. Armour v. City of Indianapolis, 132 S. Ct. 2073, 2080–81 (2012) (quotation marks omitted). The Association’s policy arguments for allowing cold-beer sales by grocery and convenience stores are matters for the Indiana legislature, not the federal judiciary.

For the foregoing reasons, the Association has failed to carry its burden of demonstrating that Indiana’s cold-beer statute violates the Equal Protection Clause. AFFIRMED.

See this Jan. 5, 2015 ILB post for the oral argument.

Note that this is a different case from the Monarch Beverage 3-Tier challenge, decided by Judge Barker on Sept. 30th, or the Monarch case heard Dec. 2nd by the Court of Appeals.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 14, 2015 05:02 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions