State can’t seem to end Sunday ban

South Bend Tribune

Once again, the effort to lift a Prohibition-era ban on Sunday alcohol sales has died in Indiana, the only state with such a blue law.

LaPorte Rep. Tom Dermody, sponsor of a bill to legalize Sunday alcohol sales in Indiana, told reporters he pulled the bill because it didn’t have enough support to pass.

In an interview with The (South Bend) Tribune, Dermody noted that House Bill 1624 “has gone further than any other piece of Sunday-sales legislation in the history of the General Assembly, so we made progress.” He also said he “thought it was a great discussion.”

But all that talk produced the same outcome. House Bill 1624 looked shaky once Dermody began piling on amendments that seemed to come directly from the liquor store lobby’s wish list. Among the restrictions: Beer and wine would be required to be kept in a single aisle or separate room, with liquor required to be stored behind a counter. And customers would no longer be allowed to pay for hard liquor at a self-serve checkout.

State Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, who voted in favor of the amended bill, said, “I oppose allowing Sunday alcohol sales, but I support additional regulations to try to keep hard liquor out of the hands of underage minors.”

The amendments, which retailers say would have forced them to spend millions to remodel their stores to be in compliance, had grocery store chains, including South Bend-based Martin’s Super Market, up in arms. In a Viewpoint printed on Monday’s Voices page, Rob Bartels, Martin’s president and CEO, called the legislation “an unworkable mess.”

It’s also an inexplicable mess. How has Indiana been unable to make a seemingly simple change that the other 49 states have made? More to the point, how has the state’s liquor store industry’s longstanding opposition to Sunday sales prevented a bill, until this year, from getting even a committee vote?

How do legislators explain the crash and burn of HB 1624? How does Dermody, who earlier this month announced “Prohibition is over,” seriously talk about improving “convenience for consumers” when the changes he added seemed designed to do just the opposite? Didn’t Dermody shoot the bill in the foot by tacking on a series of questionable amendments?

At the very least, legislators — starting with Dermody — owe their fellow Hoosiers some more answers about this latest failure to end the ban on Sunday alcohol sales.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to