Ricker’s offering lawmakers lunch in latest development in cold beer battle

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Officials from Ricker’s are hoping to give Hoosier lawmakers a taste of two restaurants Tuesday where cold beer is being served.

The company parked a food truck outside the Statehouse and offer lunch to staff.

“Ricker’s couldn’t bring their restaurants in Columbus and Sheridan to you, but they can provide you with the same restaurant quality food options that their restaurants provide through their food truck,” the company said in an emailed invitation.

Jay Ricker, chairman of Ricker’s Convenience Stores, spoke at the event and said lawmakers need to change Indiana's alcohol laws so that they benefit the consumer.

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) showed up, a critic of the company receiving permits from the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to sell cold beer. Bosma has been working behind the scenes, along with Senate President Pro Tem David Long to quickly address the issue.

"It's not Jay’s fault that suddenly a convenient store is a restaurant," Bosma said. "There’s a means for that not to happen but the ATC chose to overlook that."

The company has gotten a lot of attention at the Statehouse this session when lawmakers learned two gas stations were selling cold beer after adding restaurants. The locations applied for and received permits from the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to sell cold beer. Typically, gas stations are forbidden from doing so.

Ricker says their food concept is well developed and they've spent millions of dollars installing the restaurants and doing renovations. In the process, he says a lot of jobs have been created.

"We’re willing to wait a couple years for it to get fixed. But we’re going to fix it and do it the right way,” he said. "They need to quit protecting the liquor lobby in the state of Indiana. Consumers are inconvenienced, and that’s who’s losing out on this."

Lawmakers vowed to revisit the law. On Monday, a House committee approved new language that would allow the Ricker’s locations to continue selling cold beer “for the time being.” The measure would prohibit other businesses from following Ricker’s lead, however.

“I’m feeling like the legislators should listen to their constituents because they’re all saying this needs to be changed,” said Ricker.

Also Tuesday, the ATC didn't take action on more than 300 restaurant permit renewals, instead granting those businesses a 90-day extension, because of the uncertainty with the pending legislative changes.

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