Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Drink Too Much Beer, Get Censored

Column Notes: I got censored this week! My original choice of referencing the idea of three-ways didn't quite meet the standards of the paper and so they asked me to rewrite it. Several people said they thought the changed version was better anyway, but I was really happy with the first one. I thought it was hilarious. You can read the edited paragraph at the end of this post.

HARBESON: Maintaining misguided laws not the answer for alcohol licenses

Local Columnist

When I first heard Clarksville’s Redevelopment Director Rick Dickman say that most restaurants would love to have a three-way, I thought the Southern Indiana area might finally be getting a Cincinnati-style chili franchise. But then I realized it had to do with Indiana’s asinine alcohol laws.

Selling various one-way (beer only), two-way (beer and wine) and three-way (beer, wine and liquor) alcohol licenses is important to government officials in cities and towns like Clarksville because it affects their ability to collect tax revenue. (They prefer the euphemism, “economic development.”)

Restaurant liquor licensing is a big deal in Indiana, and the glass is foaming over with protectionism, special favors and the buying and selling of a government-created product that would not exist otherwise. Everyone, from servers and bartenders to the guy who sells those cute little colorful paper umbrellas, is affected.

Of course, it’s not just these licenses; our state government has its controlling hands wrapped firmly around every bottle, mug and martini sold in the state. The details could change slightly though, because this year a Legislative Study Committee was formed to study the state’s alcohol laws.

For those who don’t know what a study committee is, it’s when lawmakers divvy out issues and then have meetings so they look busy year-round. They sit and listen to lobbyists and citizens speak out for and against current law. They “listen to the people,” and get “a feel for what the public wants,” before they ignore everything and vote “according to their conscience” which means “in the manner that benefits them the most.”

I’m not sure why they chose alcohol laws this time around, but it could be because they heard the statistic being thrown around that the state may have lost up to $9 million in tax revenue by interfering with these transactions. That’s the sort of information that catches a legislator’s attention.

Probably because of the above statistic, the two main issues this Interim Study Committee on Alcoholic Beverages is concerned about are selling alcohol on Sunday and expanding the businesses that can sell cold beer.

Everyone who understands the basic idea of freedom doesn’t really need to study such ideas of course. If a business wants to sell cold beer or other alcohol on a Sunday to a consumer who wants to purchase it, then no one should use force to try and stop the transaction.

But governments have a way of making such things seem complicated. As a matter of fact, because of their previous interference, we have the odd situation where some small business owners, who should know better, are actually defending this lack of freedom.

These store owners are afraid they will go out of business if they have to open on Sunday and if competitors can also sell cold beer. In a way, I feel bad for them because they may not be in this predicament had the current laws not existed. But if what they say is true, then they are operating on a faulty business model, one based on government action and subject to political whim. That’s not a good idea.

Besides, there are liquor stores which have a much better business plan. They’ve built themselves up as a specialty store, one that gives exemplary service, stocks unusual items and caters to the consumer who wants more than what one area curmudgeon describes as “corporate swill.”

So even though I have sympathy for those businesses, they are still being propped up artificially through government force. Maintaining misguided laws that restrict freedom is not the answer.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson could never sit through a Study Committee meeting. Well, maybe if she had a drink with a colorful paper umbrella.

Here's my original lead. Keep in mind I live right across the river from Louisville, KY, so U of L is big 'round these here parts:

When I first heard Clarksville’s Redevelopment Director Rick Dickman say that most restaurants would love to have a three-way, I though it had something to do with the publicity that comes from having people like Rick Pitino, um, hanging around. But then I realized it had to do with Indiana’s asinine alcohol laws.

1 comment:

  1. Debbie, thank you for this. I needed a laugh today. Great!