‘Why Can’t I Buy a Cold Beer When I Want To?’

Army vet protests gov't intrusion into Americans' personal business — 'how does this benefit the population?'

I am a born-again Hoosier. I solidified this fact when I chose to marry a naturally born Hoosier girl. Although I was able to briefly escape, I soon found myself back in Indiana — but I can’t complain. The state is primarily conservative and is extremely business-friendly. Minus the fact that there are no mountains or oceans, the region really isn’t that bad.

Yet even here, in a state that is very red, I once again find myself questioning the ability of the government to stay out of the way of individual freedoms.

I am an absolute proponent of being able to offer any and every discount you want at your business.

Indiana is one of those weird states that believes in over-regulating alcohol sales. For example, you cannot purchase alcohol on Sunday (by the way, if someone out there can intelligently articulate to me a reason for this other than the nanny state, please hit me up on Twitter because I am at a total loss). Another law that I find unreasonably constricting is that it …is unlawful for a permittee to discriminate between purchasers by granting a price discount, allowance, or service charge (a cover charge is not included in this) which is not available to all.”

In non-legal speak, this means you cannot have a happy hour or offer half-price ladies night because it is unfair. Personally, I am an absolute proponent of being able to offer any and every discount you want at your business. After all, it is your business, and you reap the rewards or failures of your own practices. Why should the state be allowed to dictate these to you? Are they going to come in and bail you out when you fail due to overregulation? Unlikely.

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In Indiana, all businesses that want to sell alcohol on their premises must abide by the rules as published. Well, sort of. There is one other rule about alcohol sales in Indiana that we must discuss. You cannot purchase cold beer from anywhere other than a liquor store or a restaurant. This one bothers me as well. How does constricting sales of cold beer to liquor stores benefit the general populace? I can’t see how this would in any way effect alcoholism or drunk driving. It simply means that there is less competition.

But as I stated, rules are rules. In this case, the rules are clearly published and codified, so there is no reason that there should be any issues. As Americans, we will always look to find a way to make a profit while living within the legal limits issued by government. Of course, the implied reciprocation is that the government will also play by the rules it creates. This is the pact that we have with our government. So it really irritates me when I see government changing rules after the fact in order to determine who is allowed to prosper.

This is the case of Ricker’s service stations. In looking at the laws, Ricker’s saw an opportunity to be able to sell cold beer by opening a restaurant within their service stations. So last year, two of their locations added restaurant services and applied for permits to sell cold alcohol to the patrons, which included carry-out service (i.e. purchasing a cold six-pack to take home). This was all done completely legally and above board. After incurring the cost for renovations and permits, they were finally given permission to sell cold beer and wine.

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However, this did not sit well with the politicians. In their view, Ricker’s had circumnavigated the will of the legislatures. Never mind that this was done in full view of everyone and that they complied with all laws. So, typical of our government, they did the only thing that a government knows how to do — they began changing the rules.

This is what our government has become, and it is not simply related to Washington, D.C. Special interests dictate what the government decrees and controls. When people figure out a way to work within the system, but have failed to pay homage to those special-interest groups, the government clamps down on them — forcing them to either capitulate or go out of business.

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It is almost comical watching the way the politicians are running around trying to spin their reasons for going after this business. Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, a supposed Republican, stated, “The public policy of this state is we don’t sell cold beer and spirits at the same place you buy gas.” Why, Mr. “Limited Government Republican” Bosma?

That statement shows the contempt our government has for the intelligence of the people from whom it derives its very power. It took me approximately 20 seconds on Google to find a Shell gas station next door to a liquor store in Fishers, Indiana. So, Mr. Bosma, how exactly does this not qualify? What is the difference between buying a cold six-pack at the Shell station or the liquor store located one door down? I really want to understand how this separation of a single wall in any way affects the outcome of someone purchasing alcohol?

Mr. Ricker’s, owner of the chain under assault, stated, “Yes, you can change the law. I understand that. We may not agree, but what really bothers me … is where I have permits already and have made tens of thousands of dollars of investment in equipment, training, a lot of different things. You want to take those licenses away from me.” Mr. Ricker, I agree. If they can do this to you, a man with a fair amount of wealth and the means to at least put up a limited fight, what will they do to someone like me?

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This has nothing to do with government versus business, or even government corruption. This is about fair play and abiding by the rules that were created — that is what really gets under my skin about this story. Ricker’s played by the rules of the legislature. He took on the financial risk to expand his business, and he did so with the belief that the government would play by its own rules.

If the government can go after you publicly, what can they do to us in quiet?

The politicians are no different from a grade-school bully on the playground. When a new kid joins the other team on the basketball court and is better than him, the bully (government) either changes the rules or takes the ball and walks off the court.

Mr. Ricker, if you by chance read this article, I would like for you to be able to take heart knowing that there are many who stand with you. Not because I care about alcohol sales (although I will never turn down a cold beer on summer day, especially if cooking on a grill), but because if the government can go after you publicly, then what can they do to us in quiet?

I believe that Thomas Jefferson said it best: “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

You, sir, played by their rules — and should be entitled to equal protection for your business.

Matthew Wadler is a U.S. Army veteran and a senior OpsLens contributor. He served in the Army for 20 years as both enlisted and officer before retiring; his service includes time as military police, field artillery, adjutant general, and recruiting. His deployments include Somalia and two tours to Afghanistan. He holds a master’s degree in HR Management and is a strong supporter of the Constitution and an advocate for military and veteran communities. This OpsLens article is used by permission. 

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