A federal lawsuit has been filed in Indiana challenging that states long established ruling that liquor stores may sell chilled beer, but convenience stores and gas stations may not sell chilled beer. The lawsuit is another example of states maintaining unjustifiable laws that favor one group of similar alcohol licensees over another.
The suit, brought in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, was filed by the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. The suit argues that the allowing only Indiana liquor stores to sell chilled beer violates the federal Equal Protection clauses, the federal Privileges and Immunities Clause and Indiana’s constitutional protection for the “pursuit of happiness” and for being an arbitrary and unjustifiable distinction between licensees.
The issue reminds us that archaic alcohol laws that serve no rational purpose can be found throughout the alcohol codes in nearly every state. Retailers such as grocery stores have long fought prohibitions in many states that ban the sale of wine in their stores. Online and brick and mortar wine retailers have long fought arbitrary laws that prohibit them from shipping wine directly to consumers in other states, while wineries may act as retailers and ship wine into those same states. This new lawsuit is of a similar nature: it discriminates irrationally and to the detriment of one party, not to mention being harmful to consumers.
Scott Imus, the executive director of the IPMCSA noted the arbitrary nature of the current law when he said:
“In reviewing the history, it became more and more clear to us there really was not a rational basis for the current law. The fact the law says pharmacies, convenience stores and grocery stores are capable enough to sell the product warm, then it gets rather arbitrary about what temperature it can be sold at. When you change the temperature, it doesn’t change the alcohol content. We don’t think the state should be in the business of picking winners and losers and allocating market share. Businesses that are given the authority and have met the regulatory controls requirement the state insists upon ought to be able to sell the product the way customers want it.”