By Mo Merhoff
Growing up in Wisconsin meant taking part in a sacred, weekly ritual – seeking out the best Friday night fish fry. We’d head off to some tiny Central Wisconsin community, where we’d find a small Mom and Pop spot with oil-cloth tablecloths, a foosball machine, a television show debating the latest Packer news. . .and beer.
Make no mistake. These were places meant for families and filled with them. They were not deemed dangerous – far from it - and nobody presumed that my dining with my family where alcoholic beverages were being served would make me a future alcoholic. Bars were gathering places, meeting-with-friends places, having a beer with your fish fry places.
I’ve also yet to find any evidence whatsoever that high school young people in other states, who worked at grocery checkouts, began their lives of drunkenness and crime because they drug a bottle of wine across a barcode reader. But if you’re under 21, you can’t do that in Indiana. We presume there’s a cause and effect.
You can’t participate in a restaurant “happy hour” special either, although you can have a happy day, apparently. All-day drink specials are OK.
Listening to Sen. Alting’s lengthy public policy committee hearing on the substantial proposed amendment to HB 1518 taught me a lot more. Ever purchased liquor from a golf course drink cart? You broke Indiana law until 1518 passed on the last day of the session. Last summer’s study session covered a lot of ground, and laid the foundation for many of the changes proposed in the bill. With care, Sen. Alting and others in the legislature are working to update Indiana’s alcohol laws, and their work should be applauded.
Other parts of the 1518 mega amendment make sense too. Municipalities ought to be able to decide the number of liquor licenses needed to accommodate development projects without a referendum. That’s why there are local zoning and planning ordinances. Those decisions should belong to cities and towns, not the state. Sen. Alting’s comment was on point – “That would just add more government, not less.” Fortunately, that amendment stayed in the bill too.
Prohibition was not our country’s finest example of practical legislation. Perhaps if we could change the conversation about alcohol from how to prohibit use of it to how to be more responsible with it, we might land in more reasonable territory.
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