News and Tribune

January 9, 2014

HARBESON: How do you wish to spend your Sundays?

By DEBBIE HARBESON
Local guest columnist

— I really got a buzz reading the recent column in the News and Tribune by Steve Kohrman as he downed the first shot in the repetitive drinking game going on in Indiana concerning retailers selling alcohol on Sundays.

Mr. Kohrman is chairman of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, a group of people better known to you and me as package liquor store owners. The association is a lobbying group and like all other lobbying groups, it is interested in promoting laws that benefit its members.

This association has given more than $264,000 to Indiana politicians since 2004. They pour their funds into both parties’ mugs, but the Republicans get their glasses filled a bit more, receiving 56.9 to 43.1 percent for Democrats.

Now all that said, the fact that Mr. Kohrman represents a lobbying group does not automatically invalidate any points he makes in defense of continuing government restrictions on Sunday alcohol sales in Indiana. So let’s take a look at the points made.

Mr. Kohrman frames this issue as small local businesses fighting big out-of-state corporations in the form of “massive retailers” and “big box chains.” I am certainly no fan of corporate abuse of power through legislation but they are not asking for special circumstances that apply only to them, the point is to simply open up a trade opportunity, one that would include package liquor stores.

(Kohrman does mention some differences in state laws concerning package liquor stores and other retailers and if there are unfair regulations in this area, I encourage him to work on complete repeal of those laws.)

So if this would open up trade for all, then what’s the problem? Well the package liquor stores like the benefits they have been receiving from the current government imposed ban. I suppose they like being off on Sundays and not having to pay employees to work on Sundays. If they want to operate their business in this manner, I fully support them. What I do not support, however, is using the government to tell their competitors what to do.

Kohrman claims that people want regulations on alcohol and lists results from a recent study to back up his point, implying that the survey’s results prove Indiana residents do not want alcohol to be sold on Sunday.

He is correct that many people do want regulations on alcohol but I would challenge him to prove that this desire for regulation amounts to no more than setting a legal drinking age in the illusion that this keeps alcohol out of the hands of minors.

Sunday alcohol sales have nothing to do with the age limits on alcohol sales so there is clearly no need to interfere with voluntary trade between businesses and customers who are willing to accept the arbitrary government-imposed age controls.

In addition, this survey was nationwide. How can a phone survey of 1,000 people nationwide tell us anything about what Indiana residents think about selling alcohol on Sunday?

Mr. Kohrman’s worst point is when he attempts to apply the slippery slope argument by claiming that opening alcohol sales on Sunday could mean that Indiana might end up saying we can legally serve our kids alcohol like those apparently backward people of Missouri do already.

I hate to tell him this but it’s pretty darn easy right now for any parent to give their kid alcohol in the privacy of their own homes with or without any stupid state law. So if he is truly concerned about this issue he would immediately close up his second-generation package store because he cannot know if he has already been contributing to this apparently horrid problem.

The package liquor store owners need to stop fighting the release of restrictions that are clearly now only serving as protectionist policy and figure out how to make themselves relevant in the modern marketplace.

— Indiana resident Debbie Harbeson can be reached anytime at daharbeson@yahoo.com. Even on Sundays.