Convenience stores sue Indiana over right to sell cold beer - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Convenience stores sue Indiana over right to sell cold beer

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Warm beer displayed at Thorntons Warm beer displayed at Thorntons
Only warm beer can be sold at Indiana convenience stores Only warm beer can be sold at Indiana convenience stores
A Thorntons store in Jeffersonville A Thorntons store in Jeffersonville

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- A group of convenience stores, along with the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, are suing the state of Indiana for a law they call unconstitutional.

In Indiana, it is illegal for grocery or liquor stores to sell cold beer. Those establishments can only sell beer at room temperature.

Thorntons is one of the plaintiffs in the case. Although the company got its start in Southern Indiana, it vows to stay out of the Hoosier market until changes are made to current liquor laws.

"The sole basis we're not building stores in Indiana is we can get a better return in other states," said David Bridgers, Vice President and General Counsel of Thorntons.

The last time they built a store in Indiana was 2006.

"People don't buy warm beer like they buy cold beer," said Bridgers. 

Bridgers noted that although they can't sell cold beer, they can legally sell cold wine. He calls it another flaw in liquor laws that dates back to the prohibition.

The group of convenience stores tried lobbying the Indiana legislature four sessions in a row, but their efforts were unsuccessful. They decided to take a new route and sue on the basis that the state is breaking the equal protection clause.

Meanwhile, liquor stores are defending their grip on the cold beer market.

"These big chains don't need cold beer. They have so much more than we're allowed to sell," says Susan Kerber of Bridge Liquors in New Albany.

If the judge sides with the convenience stores, Kerber fears she wouldn't be able to compete with big chain prices.

"We may as well close the doors because that's our major source of income."

Kerber also says liquor stores require more licensing, and her employees have to undergo special training. She says without those requirements on convenience stores, more liquor will get in the hands of minors.

According to legal counsel, the case is expected to be heard sometime in February. At that time it could take about a month for a decision to be made.

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