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Lifting the Sunday alcohol sales ban

By Scott Tibbs, February 21, 2013

The people of Indiana are well aware of the fact that you cannot purchase alcohol on Sundays - at least not packaged alcohol from a supermarket to take home with you. You can go to a bar and buy various drinks to consume on the premises, and you can drink a beer at a Colts game in the fall. You can go to a casino or a strip club on Sundays. So why do we still have a partial ban on Sunday alcohol sales? Is it a relic of the Blue Laws of years past?

Not really. As Matt Tully pointed out in the Indianapolis Star, this has nothing to do with having the law represent a code of morality. This is because of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, who have successfully lobbied the Indiana General Assembly to prevent the law against Sunday alcohol sales from being repealed. If the ban were repealed, liquor stores would need to be open on Sundays (and incur the extra costs of being open, the biggest of which is labor) to compete with supermarkets, which are already open seven days a week.

So the real problem here is that the Indiana General Assembly is using state law as a means of protecting special interests from competition. It is the worst form of special interest pandering - regulating the market as a way to pick winners and losers instead of simply allowing market forces to determine which businesses will be successful and which will not. Government should not be protecting business from competition.

There are other silly aspects to the relics of Indiana's blue laws - such as the fact that supermarkets may not sell alcohol pre-chilled. However, they can (and do) have a chilling machine with swirling cold water that you can use to manually chill your bottle of wine. This may be obvious and should not need to be said, but this is really stupid.

So yes, let's get rid of this silly law. Let's have the Republicans take advantage of the supermajority they won in both houses of the legislature to get government out of the business of protecting the beverage industry at the expense of the supermarkets. Let's have the Republicans embrace and implement the limited-government principles the party has been espousing since the Reagan revolution in 1980 and the Tea Party wave of 2010.