Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

State News

March 18, 2014

Old ban on beer booze level may be tapped out

INDIANAPOLIS – Loughmiller’s Pub across from the Statehouse is a favorite hangout for legislators and lobbyists who like the tavern’s menu of gourmet burgers and craft beers. State police are regular lunch customers, as are state officials who regulate the sale of alcohol.

So, it came as a surprise to bar owner Dave Livinghouse that he may be violating the law by posting on menus and chalkboards the alcohol content –- from 4 percent to 9 percent –- of the 14 Indiana-made craft beers he keeps on tap. “Am I going to jail?” Livinghouse asked.

Probably not. An old state law prohibiting advertisements that sell beer based on its strength hasn’t been enforced in years. Now it’s likely headed for repeal, given the popularity of craft beers that vary dramatically in terms of alcohol content.

“We’re getting rid of some crazy stuff,” said state Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, author of Senate Bill 236, which rewrites a portion of the state’s criminal code covering alcohol offenses.

The bill would roll back other laws long on the books if signed by the governor. Among them: Teens caught with alcohol won’t automatically have their driver’s licenses suspended if the crime doesn’t involve an automobile; and sober boaters who step onto a dock with an alcoholic drink in their hands won’t be subject to arrest.

Young’s bill evolved from work done by the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee, which has been rewriting the felony portion of the state criminal code. When craft beer brewers heard about the effort, they asked legislators to review an old section of code that reads: “It is unlawful for a person to advertise the proof or the amount or percentage of alcohol in beer …”

The law is a holdover from the post-Prohibition years when regulators were looking for ways to control the sale of alcohol.

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