Judge knocks down challenge to Indiana cold beer law - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Judge knocks down challenge to Indiana cold beer law

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Indiana convenient stores are only allowed to sell beer at room temperature Indiana convenient stores are only allowed to sell beer at room temperature
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A federal judge has rejected a challenge to state law that keeps grocery and convenient stores from selling cold beer.

The decision comes after a group of convenient stores, along with the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, sued the state of Indiana over current liquor laws. The group claims the current law is unconstitutional.

In Indiana, it is illegal for grocery or convenient stores to sell cold beer. Those establishments can only sell beer at room temperature. Monday's ruling keeps that law intact.

After hearing two days of testimony back in February, a federal judge handed down a decision Monday. The judge cited concern that cold beer in grocery and convenient stores would put more alcohol in the hands of minors.

Thorntons Senior Vice President and head of the corporations Government Relations/ Development Counsel David Bridgers says the judge ignored state figures in his ruling.

"There's more violations of sales at liquor stores to minors than grocery or convenient stores," said Bridgers.

Thorntons was 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.  

"There's family in Indiana, a lot of Thorntons history in Indiana, and we would love to build more stores in Indiana," said Bridgers, who explains that they haven't built a store in Indiana since 2006 because of the current law.  "We have a duty to our stock holders to do the best we can with their investment, and you don't do it in Indiana right now."

Bridgers said after unsuccessfully trying to lobby the Indiana legislature four sessions in a row, they decided to take a new route and sue on the basis that the state is breaking the equal protection clause.

"There's a large coalition of liquor store owners that sell cold beer who don't want the competition," said Bridgers. "All to the detriment to the people of Indiana who pay a premium buying beer at a liquor store."

Liquor stores, meanwhile, are taking a sigh of relief, claiming they wouldn't be able to compete with large chain prices.

During an interview in December 2013, Susan Kerber of Bridge Liquors in New Albany said she was vehemently against allowing grocery and convenient stores to sell cold beer.

"We may as well close the doors, because that's our major source of income," she said. "These big chains don't need cold beer. They have so much more than we're allowed to sell,"

The Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association said they have yet to decide their next move. A spokesperson said they will either try to appeal the case to a higher court, or take the lawsuit to the state level.

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