Indiana residents are now able to beat the summer heat by purchasing a beer on Sundays, for the first time since 1816.
Individuals are now able to purchase uncooled beer, wine, and liquor between the hours of noon and 8 p.m. on Sunday. The new law does not affect the state’s “warm-beer law,” a regulation prohibiting grocery stores from selling cold beer.
With Indiana’s reform having taken effect on March 1, only nine states now have blue laws preventing businesses from selling alcohol on certain days.
‘What Remains of Prohibition’
Antony Davies, an associate professor of economics at Duquesne University and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says blue laws are an unwelcome remnant of a bygone era.
“These are the dregs of what remains of Prohibition,” Davies said. “Americans have this love-hate relationship with alcohol. We go to the extent of adding a constitutional amendment to outlaw it, and within a generation, another constitutional amendment to repeal the first.”
Big-Government Booze Blues
C. Jarrett Dieterle, director of commercial freedom policy at the R Street Institute, says blue laws and other regulations on consumer alcohol sales are a legacy of twentieth-century government paternalism.
“These are all, by and large, outdated laws,” Dieterle said. “A lot of these retailing laws that restrict how people can buy alcohol are all holdovers from the immediate post-Prohibition era. The federal government got out of the booze-regulating business, and states rushed in to regulate and started enacting a lot of these laws to control people’s access to alcohol in different ways.”
Sees No Benefits
Addressing one common argument made for blue laws, Davies says there’s no causal relationship between alcohol control laws and traffic safety.
“When you compare alcohol-related traffic fatalities to the level of state control, you find no relationship,” Davies said. “The evidence suggests that it doesn’t happen.
“People want to make the argument that blue laws are important, that restricting alcohol on Sunday somehow is the key to reducing drunk driving fatalities,” Dieterle said. “Most states allow some form of alcohol purchases on Sunday, and from what I’ve seen, there’s no rash of greater drunk-driver instances in those states, compared to states that have blue laws.”
Blue-law repeals have little effect on alcohol consumption rates or overall public health, Dieterle says.
“I don’t think it has much of an impact on people’s consumption of alcohol.” Dieterle said. “I think that it really ends up inconveniencing people more than anything.”
Now that Indiana has stopped telling people what days they can buy beer, Dieterle says state lawmakers should stop telling people where they can buy it.
“If I were them, the thing I’d be prioritizing is the warm-beer law that only allows gas stations and convenience stores to sell warm beer,” Dieterle said. “It’s absurd. Indiana residents hate it.
“Crony capitalism is pretty much rampant throughout the alcohol industry,” Dieterle said. “There are definitely a lot of ensconced special interests trying to stop that reform movement.”