Convenience stores sue over warm beer

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana convenience stores want to be able to sell cold beer.  It's the reason they filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday.

You can buy beer at a convenience store in this state, but it must be warm.  Convenience store owners say that's a violation of their constitutional rights. 

"Indiana has the dubious distinction," says Scot Imus of the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, "of being the only state that regulates beer sales based upon temperature."

It's a circumstance that led the three convenience store chains and their state association to file a federal lawsuit against the state agency that enforces alcohol laws, the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. 

"The constitutional claim at issue are pretty simple," said attorney John Maley.  "It's to be treated equally, to be treated fairly."

One of the things pointed out in the lawsuit is the fact that convenience stores in Indiana can sell cold wine. 

"This just doesn't make sense," said Greg Cobb of Freedom Oil.

Beer and wine are the number three carryout items in Indiana convenience stores behind tobacco and energy drinks.  Store owners say that if they were allowed to sell the beer cold, beer and wine would immediately jump to number two.  And that, say convenience store owners, would lead to big changes.

Probably anybody that has a convenience store in Indiana, if they give this right," said Imus, "They're immediately going to go down and apply for a building permit and build a beer cave."

And if nothing changes, they say, investment will go elsewhere. 

"Thorton's has not built a convenience store in Indiana since 2006," said David Bridgers of Thorton's convenience stores, "for the sole reason of its antiquated alcohol laws."

A spokesman for the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission declined to comment.  The General Assembly, however, has already dealt with this issue.  It killed a bill calling for cold beer sales in convenience stores in the session that ended last month.

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