Indiana State Fair officials say allowing alcohol sales at the annual Fair gives customers what they want, helps the Fair broaden its agricultural showcase and could generate more revenue.
Alcohol is sold at the State Fairgrounds 348 days out of the year – with the only exception being during the State Fair itself, which has been dry since 1946. Legislation proposed by Indianapolis Republican Senator Jim Merritt –who’s a member of the State Fair Commission – would repeal that prohibition.
But State Fair Commission executive director Cindy Hoye says that doesn’t mean the Fair would start selling beer like it sells corndogs.
“What we are looking at…would propose is an Indiana wine and beer and spirits exhibition with a controlled environment," Hoye says. "21 and older to go in; alcohol would not leave that area.”
But Matt Bell, representing Big Red Liquors, says any expansion of alcohol availability creates additional risk of abuse. And he notes the legislation doesn’t include any restrictions on alcohol sales at the Fair.
“Should we limit statutorily the products to be sold to Indiana products? We understand that revenue may be a concern in the future," Bell says. "If there is a large, national supplier who wanted to be a sponsor of the State Fair and offered that kind of revenue, there’s nothing that would limit that in the bill today.”
The legislation already cleared the Senate. The House Public Policy Committee is expected to vote on the bill next week.