INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers on Sunday will be able to purchase — in Indiana — alcohol for at-home consumption, for the first time in the state's 201-plus-year history.
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 new statute, which overwhelmingly passed both the Senate and House in February, includes an immediate effective date, which means retailers can sell alcohol on Sunday beginning this weekend.
"If you're doing your grocery shopping, all the aisles will be open to you," Holcomb said. "There is absolutely no need any longer to make a run for the border."
After signing Sunday sales, the Republican chief executive said in his Statehouse office that he hopes it will be the first of many new laws in the years ahead that sweep away antiquated business protections that do nothing for Hoosier consumers.
He said that even could include ending the nation's only liquor store monopoly on cold beer sales, a policy that has frustrated Indiana shoppers, as well as grocery, drug and convenience store operators, for decades.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, and the good news is the next session is right around the corner," Holcomb said. "Everything will be in the realm of possibility in 2019."
In the meantime, Holcomb said he's likely to celebrate the new law by purchasing some Indiana-produced alcohol on Sunday and having a cookout at the Governor's Residence in Indianapolis.
A dry history
According to the Indiana Law Journal, the state's Sunday alcohol sales ban was 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."
With minor tweaks, the law remained in force until 1917 when Indiana outlawed the possession of any amount of alcohol — three years before national Prohibition took effect.
The Sunday sales ban was restored after Prohibition ended in 1933. Though it started to seem out of place beginning in 1973 when Indiana first allowed bars and restaurants to sell alcohol by the glass on Sundays.
Nevertheless, it still took more than four decades for Hoosier lawmakers to agree with most of their constituents that Sunday carry-out alcohol sales is the right policy for Indiana.
Following Holcomb's signature, the Hoosier State no longer is the only state in the country with a total statewide ban on the retail sale of beer, wine and liquor on Sundays.
A 'symbolic' move
Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said that while other issues the General Assembly is debating this year are more important than legalizing Sunday sales, it's appropriate that the first law enacted in 2018 is one that polls show strong majorities of Hoosiers support.
"It's very symbolic, the fact that we're finally putting some of these archaic alcohol laws in Indiana in the rear-view mirror," Long said. "The consumer is coming first for a change. ... It's a good day for Hoosiers."
State Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, the House sponsor of the law, likewise said he's proud that lawmakers could get things done in a way that the people of Indiana wanted.
"I think we found a nice place to land that allows the prohibition of Sunday sales to end, but not be overly expansive," Smaltz said. "In Indiana we do things in a reasonable way, and I think with Sunday sales we found that spot."
Smaltz helped devise the 12 to 8 p.m. Sunday sales period as way to limit the added labor expense for liquor stores that now will have to open Sundays to remain competitive with other alcohol retailers.
A proposal by state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, to treat Sunday like any other day of the week, where retailers can sell between 7 a.m. and 3 a.m. the following day, was rejected by voice vote in the Senate.
Raising spirits, revenue
The Distilled Spirits Council claims that even limited Sunday retail alcohol sales could generate between $7.7 million and $11.5 million in new tax revenue for the state, as Hoosiers end their habit of crossing into neighboring states on Sundays to pick up alcohol and make other purchases.
The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which represents package liquor stores at the Statehouse, said their member shops will be ready to serve Hoosiers this Sunday, and all the Sundays to come.
"Neighborhood package liquor stores have been responsible merchants of alcohol products since 1933 and are ready to open our doors on Sundays for the first time," said Jon Sinder, association chairman. "We are eager to welcome our loyal customers."
Every state representative and senator from Northwest Indiana voted in favor of legalizing Sunday sales.
Check back at nwi.com for updates to this story.
See some of the laws in Indiana enacted in 2017 here: