Monday, March 20, 2006

john livengood and alcohol sales on sunday

being located in the bible belt, indiana has a number of laws i find to be embarrassing. high on the list is indiana's prohibition on selling alcohol on sundays. liquor stores, grocery stores, and the like are barred from selling alcohol until 7am monday, but bars and restaurants are allowed to sell from 10am until 12:30am. hell, you can buy drinks at the opera on sunday afternoon, though you can't take them to your seat and must drink them in the lobby. so on sundays, people are not allowed to buy alcohol and safely drive it home; they must drink it in public and then find their way home in an inebriated state.

so this recent indy star poll has my head reeling:

Fifty percent of those surveyed favored keeping the current laws, while 43 percent supported allowing more Sunday sales of beer, wine and liquor, according to a poll commissioned by The Indianapolis Star. The poll, conducted Feb. 28 to March 2, is based on the responses of 501 residents statewide.

The poll, conducted by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

A wide range of groups oppose expanding liquor sales at convenience, grocery and liquor stores to seven days a week, from conservative Christians to advocates trying to curb underage drinking and even mom-and-pop liquor store operators anxious to preserve their one day off.

naturally, the religious argument is the flimsiest, and the one with the weakest constitutionality. the primary problem with this angle is that it only works for christians: jews, muslims, and even some christian sects celebrate the sabbath on a day other than sunday. never mind atheists, agnostics, secular theists, or followers of any number of other faiths that don't observe a sabbath day.

i'm not sure i buy the underage drinking angle either; it's just an assertion that isn't backed up. no evidence is given, and i suspect none exists. i can't find evidence of this being studied much, and what little i can find suggests there is no significant link: other states as well as canadian provinces have eliminated their blue laws without noticing a significant upturn in underage drinking.

but this was the most puzzling part of the star article:
Not everyone associated with the liquor industry favors relaxing the Sunday "blue laws," as the laws are also called. The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, which represents liquor stores, is against Sunday package sales.

John Livengood, the organization's president, said many liquor stores are family-run businesses where Sunday is their only day off. He said there may not be enough customers for liquor stores to warrant being open an additional day.

"People are just used to buying on Saturdays or Mondays," he said.

the "day off" argument doesn't wash either. small business owners pick their own hours; they don't have to be open on sunday if they don't want to or don't get enough customers.

i'm at a loss wondering why a liquor store lobbyist would be against sunday sales. this is even more puzzling when you consider that just last december, livengood was lobbying to allow alcohol sales on christmas.

i can't find a website for the indiana association of beverage retailers, but i did find livengood's bio as president and CEO of the restaurant & hospitality association of indiana. that's a restaurant industry trade group. right now, restaurants and bars have a virtual monopoly on sunday sales and it's not in their interest for liquor stores to be open on sundays. but now he also represents a group that supposedly represents liquor stores, which i would think have a lot to gain from sunday sales.

this would appear to be a conflict of interest. i wondered whether perhaps livengood had worked at the RHAI until recently leaving and going back to the IABR, but it appears he's been with IABR since at least 1998, meaning he's been doing both jobs concurrently for some time now, prompting an obvious question: where do john livengood's loyalties lie?

now that state legislature is out of session, it's a moot issue until next year. but i would love to see the sunday sales ban lifted... and i would also love more insight into livengood's mysterious dual (and dueling) role as restaurant lobbyist and liquor store lobbyist.

update: clients of john livengood & associates as of 1996:

Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers
Indiana Collectors Association
Indiana Hotel & Motel Association
Mid-America Food Processors Association
Promote Indiana Coalition
Restaurant & Hospitality Association of Indiana

...sounds like a dedicated restaurant lobbyist to me.


Doug said...

The "day off" argument may have a little merit. If the stores are all in it together, the time off is probably worth more to them than the lost sales for the day. But, if they're closed while their competitors are open, they might lose market share that makes them feel compelled to stay open even if the one-day per week sales don't mean that much to them.

Just speculation on my part though.

Anonymous said...

no beer fuck it drive to michigan , ohio , illionois, ill and annoyed or kentucky ? indiana is a bunch o re born christ died for his own sins not mine this 50% thing bothersd me too , sunday is my day off why cant i go buy some beer and drink @ home oh i forgot to get some on sat ,, retard tm