I am a homegrown Hoosier businessman. The state of Indiana has granted me the privilege, and the responsibility, of selling alcohol. My company, Big Red Liquors, is dedicated to the principal of selling alcohol, a controlled substance, legally and responsibly. We take that responsibility very seriously because we know that when alcohol is sold illegally or irresponsibly, individuals, families, businesses and communities can be devastated.
My stores understand our responsibility to the customers and communities we serve. We support the great law enforcement professionals who protect us every day. This fall we donated a K-9 unit to the Indianapolis Police Department so they could continue to be well-equipped to do their duty. We have stepped forward to help Sen. Jim Merritt promote Indiana’s Lifeline Law by producing posters and bottle neck tags that encourage Hoosiers to make a call to save a life. We will not do business with Hoosiers under age 21, but we will do everything we can to prevent the kinds of tragedies that underage drinking too often leads to.
There are significant challenges facing Hoosiers every day. Too many Hoosiers are struggling to find work; crime and violence scar our cities and towns. But instead of asking Indiana’s legislators to focus on those issues, today there is a renewed push by multi-national retailers to redefine Indiana’s alcohol laws. Large retailers are asking the legislature to allow them to sell alcohol on Sundays. They are suing the state for the privilege of selling refrigerated beer. They are convinced that more access to alcohol is appropriate public policy.
They are wrong.
There is no denying the fact that increasing access to alcohol increases the chances that alcohol will be abused. Forty years of studies demonstrate that even a moderate increase in the availability of and access to alcohol lead to increased consumption and abuse. Today, Indiana law allows alcohol to be sold from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. six days a week. That means Hoosiers can go into a store and buy alcohol 72 percent of the time during a seven-day week. To those who insist that we must sell on Sundays, I ask – how much access is enough?
Alcohol is ever present in the media and in society. Children and adults alike are exposed to alcohol and alcohol advertisements every time we watch television, attend a professional sporting event or enjoy a concert. This constant exposure makes it too easy to forget that alcohol is a drug and that when it is abused there is a heavy price to pay.
The package liquor store industry has played a critical role in the well-being of our great state since the repeal of Prohibition 80 years ago. Following the repeal, legislators worked to create a system for distribution that promoted safety and welfare while providing Hoosiers the opportunity to legally and responsibly purchase alcohol. In 1935, package liquor stores were created by the legislature for that very purpose. We have worked hard to uphold the trust that has been placed in us and we will continue to do so.
Regardless of whether the question is selling alcohol on Sundays or expanding the privilege of selling cold beer to the corner gas station, Big Red Liquors does not support efforts to increase access to alcohol. In fact, we believe Indiana legislators should consider reducing the hours that alcohol is available for retail sale. We are asking legislators to increase funding for Indiana’s Excise Police so our state has the resources necessary to ensure alcohol is sold legally and responsibly.
Indiana’s alcohol policies have never been and should never be predicated on convenience. Alcohol is a controlled substance. It is a legal drug. As a package liquor store owner, I am proud of my industry’s efforts to provide exceptional customer choice while controlling access to alcohol. We have served Indiana well, and we will fight to continue to do so.
Mark McAlister is chairman of Big Red Liquors.