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Hoosier Hysteria! Indiana Welcomes Sunday Beer Sales

It wasn’t quite New Year’s Eve but it sure felt like it at Holiday Liquors in Cedar Lake, Indiana on Sunday, where balloons, hotdogs and music greeted customers.

For the first time in state history, liquor and grocery stores in the state were allowed to sell packaged beer.

“After many, many years, the prohibition of Sunday sales in Indiana is over,” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said following his signing of Senate Bill 1 last week putting an end to the long tradition of Hoosiers crossing the state line into Illinois to buy beer.

A line outside Holiday Liquors formed in anticipation of the noon start time.

“This is a long time coming. I’m 52 years old and they’ve been talking about this since I can remember. It’s good, it’s a good thing,” Cedar Lake resident Tom Allen said. “Most people around here make a beer run to Illinois, but most of us want to see our money stay in Indiana.”

According to Bob Ostrander, author of the book Hoosier Beer, strict laws regulating the sale of alcohol is nothing new for Indiana.

“Well before Indiana became a state in 1816, they had a prohibition against Sunday sales, (beer) sales to Indians, sales anywhere within a mile of a church and sales to [Army] troops,” said Ostrander.

Even when Prohibition ended in the 1930s, Indiana did not budge when it came to Sunday sales, outlawing it in 1933.

“I don’t think it was farmers wanting their field hands to come to work without a hangover,” Ostrander said. “It was the religious part of society that demanded it. But I don’t think there’s going to be much kick back from this.”

Michael Puente/WBEZ
Justin Verburg says despite the change in the law, his brew pub in Dyer, Indiana will remain closed on Sundays.

The rise of craft breweries in Indiana may have forced the change.

Five years ago, brewpubs successfully lobbied lawmakers to allow packed sales on Sunday.

While liquor stores will now be open for the first time on Sundays, craft brewer Justin Verburg won’t be opening his doors on Sundays.

Verburg and his co-owner Scott VanDerGriend are both Dutch Reformed Christians and don’t believe in working on Sundays.

“It’s never been a question. We factored it into our business plan since we opened and it’s never been a problem. We know we could make more money being open but we just chose not to,” Verburg said.

In the debate of Senate Bill 1, some opponents said the change would force smaller mom and pop liquor stores to be open on Sundays to compete with grocery stores.

But Verburg says he doesn’t see a problem with the change in the law, even if his business won’t be taking advantage.

“I don’t think you’re going to all of sudden see a deep moral decay in our state because of this law being changed,” Verburg said.

The new law does limit alcohol sales from noon to 8 p.m., with only liquor stores able to sell cold beer.

When asked about allowing for the purchase of cold beer from grocery, convenience stores and gas stations, Gov. Holcomb responded, “Let’s get through Sunday first.”

Michael Puente covers Northwest Indiana and Cook County government for WBEZ.

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