INDIANAPOLIS | A Senate-approved plan for unlimited alcohol sales licenses at restaurants along Lake Michigan, especially in Whiting, is likely to be altered before getting a vote by the House.
On Wednesday, the House Public Policy Committee took testimony on Senate Bill 173 but did not act on the measure. The committee chairman, state Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, said several changes must be made to the proposal before he'll hold a committee vote next week.
"There are amendments coming that are going to deal with the number of licenses and the area we are discussing; it will not be the total lakeshore from Michigan City to Chicago," Davis said. "We're continuing to work on those things. I think it is a good project."
Currently the legislation allows the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to issue restaurants new licenses to sell alcohol for on-site consumption if the restaurant is within three blocks of Lake Michigan. There would be no cap on the number of alcohol permits for restaurants next to the lake.
Permits would be available for beer sales only; beer and wine sales; or beer, wine and liquor sales. The permits could not be transferred to a restaurant located away from the lake.
Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura told the committee the city's limited number of existing alcohol permits is not enough to meet the expected future demand of lakefront restaurants.
"We went from Mayberry to a place where every developer in Chicago and Indiana is coming to us now, looking to buy property and put up buildings; it's just an amazing phenomenon," Stahura said. "It gives us an opportunity to take us to a level we've never been before."
The sponsor of the legislation, state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, said he understands the committee's desire to cap the number of alcohol licenses and is willing to do what it takes to get the proposal enacted into law.
"This is a very difficult issue statewide; it has been for years, and so we need to be, I think, pretty judicious in making a decision — do we take what we can get ... or run the risk of losing the whole thing," Charbonneau said.