CROWN POINT — A steady stream of customers poured into stores that sell alcohol Sunday to celebrate an unusual occasion — the first purchase of alcohol for at-home consumption in Indiana.
At several liquor stores in Lake County, customers described their first purchase as a unique experience. One store manager said customers were asking for their receipts to keep as mementos.
“I've seen people in here I've never seen before,” said Thad Brody, owner of Booze Liquors in Merrillville.
Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday signed into law Senate Enrolled Act 1, authorizing retailers that already sell beer, wine or liquor six days a week to also sell on Sundays between noon and 8 p.m. local time.
The governor's signature ended a prohibition enacted by the first General Assembly in 1816 as part of a general prohibition on all Sunday business operations in order to prevent “immoral practices,” according to the Indiana Law Journal. The sales ban law was restored in 1933 after the end of Prohibition.
Holcomb celebrated Sunday by purchasing six-packs of 3 Floyd's beer (Gumballhead and Necron 99) and pork chops from Gunthorp Farms in LaGrange, Indiana. A video of his shopping trip was posted to the governor's Twitter account Sunday afternoon.
At DeLock's Discount Liquors in Munster, employees rang up five sales in about the first five minutes of the store's opening for business.
Steve Patterson, of Dyer, visited the store shortly after noon with family.
“We wanted to take advantage of the opportunity,” he said, holding a four-pack of Upland Brewing's Juiced in Time. “I don't know if we need the beer, but we wanted to do it on principle.”
Tony Blejski, of Lansing, said he happened to be at the hospital and thought he would stop at DeLock's. He said despite living in Illinois, he preferred to purchase his bourbon in Indiana, where it is cheaper.
“I'm surprised it took them this long,” he said about lifting the ban. He said it appeared the prohibition was teetering in recent years, but it never quite fell.
“It's crazy, because they are missing out on so much revenue” Blejski said.
Blejski said he hoped the prohibition's end would shorten checkout lines at liquor stores in Illinois.
Jeremy Schmidt, the 30-year-old manager at Liquor Stop in Highland, said he came into the store a half-hour early to get the place ready for business. He said several people were already lined up outside the store, but he made sure a regular customer made the first purchase.
Natasha Gatlin told Schmidt while ringing out her purchase it was an exciting day. “I'll give you a receipt, so you can save it for the experience,” Schmidt told her. “Everyone has been asking for receipts.”
Some liquor store owners expressed concern the sales would not make up for their overhead costs.
Schmidt said Saturday sales weren't hurt too much by the Sunday ban being lifted. He said he did notice some regular customers were buying six-packs of beer instead of their usual 12-packs, but he figured business would steady once summer started.
Brody said he's owned Booze Liquors for 43 years. The store was open noon to 6 p.m. Sunday as a trial period to determine whether it would be profitable.
“We are looking for a fruitful day,” he said. “Sunday is usually the only day we have to relax and go to church.”
He agreed with Schmidt — the summer would be the test. He said he expected better business when there were barbecues and beach parties. Brody said football season could also be “big money.”
“It might put a dent in the bootleggers' business,” Brody said. It wasn't a joke — he said he heard about customers who would purchase alcohol out of car trunks on Sundays rather than drive to Illinois.
Brody said at about 1:30 p.m. business was good.
“For the first day, that is enough for me,” he said.