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Ind. Gov. Eric Holcomb kicks off the end of a ban on Sunday alcohol sales by purchasing a case of Gumball Head beer by Three Floyds Brewing Co. at noon from Goose The Market in Indianapolis on Sunday, March 4, 2018.
Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar

Grabbing mimosa ingredients the day of an impromptu brunch.

Picking up a bottle of red wine for Sunday dinner while grocery shopping.

Rushing out to buy a case of your favorite beer because a few of your friends have invited themselves over at the last minute to watch a full day of NFL action.

These Sunday shopping scenarios were impossibilities in Indiana. But not now. Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a historic bill Wednesday that made Sunday carryout alcohol sales legal in Indiana.

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Sunday ushered in the new reality that allows grocery, package liquor, drug and convenience stores to sell alcohol between the hours of noon and 8 p.m. on Sundays. The milestone was still setting in for Hoosiers who figured the state’s ban on such sales would be as tied to the state’s legacy as breaded tenderloins are.

“I just always, always remember it being a thing … something that made Indiana different or quirky or whatever,” said Phillip Harris, a Peru native who has called Carmel home for the past four years. “I remember growing up as a kid and hearing my mom or dad moan when they realized they forgot to buy wine in advance for some Sunday night gathering. Everyone just kind of threw up their hands and said, ‘Well, that’s Indiana.’

“What are we supposed to complain and poke fun at now?”

The first day of Sunday carryout sales saw excitement from both patrons and businesses who have long pushed for change.

Kroger spokesman Eric Halvorson said the grocery giant has assured legislators that the grocer will handle sales on Sunday in the same responsible fashion it does the other six days of the week. 

He is also interested to see how the law affects demand and distribution of alcohol sales as Friday and Saturday have stood as the strongest days.

“I think it’s exciting for everyone because this is the topic that has been under discussion for decades, and I think everyone is happy to finally have some resolution to this,” Halvorson said. “We’re thrilled that we can offer this service to our customers because we’ve heard about it for so many years. Since it’s one of the top shopping days of the week anyway, from our standpoint it just makes sense.

“In short, people are saying it’s about time.”

Halvorson also the legislation allowing Sunday sales is a refreshing example of different interests putting differences aside to better serve the public.

“It’s terrific to see how the business community came together and created a compromise that really makes life better for everyone,” he said. 

The compromise is related to sales of cold beer still being exclusive to package liquor stores. In November, the state’s liquor store association announced an alliance with big-box retailers. Under the deal, both groups would support Sunday sales while opposing expanded cold beer sales. 

“After so many years of arguing and fighting, the compromise sets a good standard for what all of us can do to maybe come together in other ways after the dust settles on this one,” Halvorson said.

One of the first people in the state to take advantage of the new law was Marvin Morris at the Kroger on West Michigan Street.

He waited more than 30 minutes to ring up his case of beer. He had been grocery shopping earlier and didn’t realize that alcohol sales didn’t begin until noon.

Instead of making a trip back to the store later in the day, he waited. After a few failed swipes at the self-checkout line, the system updated when the clock struck 12, and he became the first person at the location to make a carryout alcohol sale.

“It’s been a long time,” Morris said with releif after finishing the transaction.  

The news was also a pleasant surprise to shoppers who were unaware the law had finally changed after many years of unsuccesful efforts. 

“That’s not real,” Candice Baker said with a laugh when told about the new legislation. “I heard someone talking about it the other day, but I just assumed it would fall apart or hadn’t really happened. You kind of get used to being let down after so many years.”

The Indianapolis resident said while the change is long overdue, it shouldn’t be celebrated as a major achievement. Not because she isn’t excited, but because she still can’t think of a good reason it has been banned for all these years.

“Congratulations, Indiana. You can now do the same thing everyone else has been doing forever,” she said. “Now we should focus on some bigger issues.”

Other people were getting in on the fun by pushing for new Sunday sales firsts now that Indiana has gotten alcohol out of the way.

Shortly after the doors to Alabama Liquors opened, Austin Taylor was out front collecting signatures for a petition.

His cause? Legalizing the sale of Chick-fil-A on Sundays. It’s a business decision rather than a law that shuts the restaurant chain on Sundays.

“This is the next step,” Taylor said. “You can’t drink and drive, but you should be able to eat and drive.”

Inside, Alabama Liquors was surprisingly busy, assistant manager Chet Smith said.

“We were totally surprised,” Smith said. “Some of them did say they did come up because of the novelty. A lot said they would come every Sunday.”

Now the small, family-owned liquor store is planning to open between noon and 4 p.m. every Sunday.

To celebrate the end of Indiana’s Sunday alcohol sales prohibition, Big Red Liquors is offering a special deal.

Fox59 reported that Big Red Liquors will celebrate the legislation with a month of discounts. Every Sunday this month, customers can take advantage of 25 percent off all beer, wine and spirits made in Indiana.

Big Red’s Pennsylvania Street location had a line of shoppers waiting for the doors to unlock and a steady stream of business through the day.

“I think everyone is getting in on it today,” said Jeff Moorehead after taking advantage of the Big Red sale and picking up a couple of selections from Sun King. “People are already calling and texting each other asking what you got and where the deals are. It’s a crazy day.”

The day’s enthusiasm was palpable. From the smallest package stores to large grocery stores, Hoosiers were out Sunday buying alcohol.

“Why am I buying today?” said Megan Bennett as she surveyed the rum bottles at Kroger. “Because I can.” 

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A Drop special report looks at impact as Indiana lifts a Prohibition-era ban on Sunday alcohol sales.
Stephen J. Beard/IndyStar

IndyStar reporter Emma Kate Fittes contributed to this report.

Call IndyStar reporter Justin L. Mack at (317) 444-6138. Follow him on Twitter: @justinlmack.

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