Border businesses could see drop in sales

DANVILLE, Ill. and COVINGTON, Ind. (WCIA) -- Every day, people cross the border to escape Indiana's strict alcohol laws, but there's a chance they could change soon.

A poll taken last month revealed the majority of people in Indiana support relaxing the state's restrictions on beer, wine and liquor sales. But if that happens, businesses in Illinois could take a hit.

In Indiana, you can't buy alcohol on Sundays, and you can't buy cold beer in convenience stores. It's only sold warm.

Across the border in Illinois, you can buy cold beer seven days a week. Those in the Hoosier state say changing the rules is a matter of convenience, but for businesses at the border, it's a matter of profit.

At this convenience store on Lynch Road, clerk Kelly Gerling says she can barely keep enough cold beer on the shelves.

"We go through a lot of beer on Sundays," she says.

The store is right off I-74, right next to the border, and it's the right idea for a lot of Indiana drinkers.

"They don't even mess with the hot beer over there," says Gerling. "They will drive miles from Indiana to get here to get liquor."

A few miles away, the I & I State Line Tavern is only steps from the border. One of the bartenders says Indiana's laws give them plenty of business.

"I'd say people drive probably like an hour's drive to get here, just to buy beer on Sundays," says Tracie Matthias.

On a hot day, cold beer is a luxury on the Indiana side of the border, which is why many people are warming up to the idea of changing the law.

"I'm open to any kind of alcohol sales on Sunday," says Josh Rainey, of Covington.

A group of guys toasting the end of the workday say planning for the weekend can be tricky.

"Either have to plan ahead on Saturday if you want to drink or you have to go to the state line like we normally have to," says Rainey.

That's something they'd prefer not to do.

"It'd be a lot more convenient than running to Illinois to get it," says Roger Bowling. "If something comes up, you need alcohol, you got to run over there instead of running four miles the other way."

Not everyone thinks convenience should be the goal. Chuck Whitaker says he likes the status quo, pointing out the dangers of alcoholism and driving drunk.

"I don't think we need it," he says. "People can get all the alcohol they want and store it in their house if they want it."

The majority of people in Indiana may not want to have to stock up. It's an idea Illinois' border business owners won't necessarily drink to.

"I'm sure it concerns the owners quite a bit," says Matthias. "And it does concern me too, because that is a lot of the business that we get on Sundays."

The cold beer and Sunday alcohol sales debates have been heating up in Indiana this year. Several organizations are pressuring state lawmakers to make a change. Border business owners will have to wait to see what happens.


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