Indiana court rules against alcohol distributor's affiliate
Jul. 25, 2017
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Supreme Court has denied an affiliate company of the state's largest beer and wine distributor the ability to distribute liquor.
The court unanimously ruled against Monarch Beverage Co.'s affiliate Spirited Sales LLC on Friday, the Indianapolis Business Journal and the Indianapolis Star reported.
Indiana is the only state in the U.S. that doesn't allow wholesalers to distribute both beer and liquor. Spirited is a separate company, but the high court found that Monarch and E.F. Transit Inc., which owns Spirited, share the same five shareholders and aren't separate enough.
Spirited almost gained the legal ability to distribute liquor in August 2016 after Marion Superior Judge Heather Welch ruled the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission "acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner" in denying the company's permit request. Welch ordered the commission to grant Spirited a wholesale liquor permit.
The case went to the state supreme court after Welch's ruling, and the court focused on the ownership of the two companies.
"There can be no doubt that Indiana is empowered to do what the Commission has urged here — which is to bar companies with same ultimate owners from simultaneously holding both beer and liquor-wholesaler permits," Justice Steven David wrote in the ruling.
The court acknowledged that businesses have lobbied against the state's alcohol laws, but said the focus of the decision was interpreting the statute's language and that state legislators should decide if the laws are still relevant and necessary.
Monarch previously went to court arguing that the state's policy of separating beer and liquor wholesaling violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and ruled against Monarch on June 30.