Bartels: Alcohol laws are inconsistent


Indiana has an ongoing commission that looks at how alcohol laws can be revised. However, State Rep. Steve Bartels, R-Eckerty, believes the Alcohol Code Revision Commission has not been very robust in its work.

“We need to update our alcohol laws, and everybody recognizes that,” Bartels said. “We’ve just been slow to act.”

And that is a little frustrating, he admitted. He is not a member of the commission, as a person involved in the alcohol industry cannot be. He owns Patoka Lake Winery.

But he sees the commission’s slow progression. Last summer, the commission focused on reviewing the different kinds of alcohol permits, the quota system for determining the number of permits a community receives and the causes and effects of overconsumption. The commissions’ agenda for this year has not yet been determined.

“The state’s alcohol laws are antiquated,” Bartels said, “and there has been people’s personal perceptions that have dictated the public policy. It doesn’t make sense.”

For instance, he pointed out, a person can take his family into a winery and do a tasting or have a glass. “But you can’t go to a brewery and take your family because of the separation laws,” Bartels said. “That is treated differently.”

A big focus for the commission is protecting children, which Bartels agrees with. But he thinks that children should be taught about the problems of overindulgence.

“We’ve got whole other countries and continents that have less alcohol restrictions and have less alcohol problems than the United States,” Bartels said. “They look at it differently.”

He believes the United States should take a similar approach.

“Alcohol should be recognized for what it’s for, which is social,” Bartels said “It is not intended for overindulgence. It’s meant to be in moderation.”

He said children should be taught that concept before they reach the legal age to drink.

“I think that is where we lack in comparison to other countries,” he said. “Alcohol is not evil. It’s meant to be used in moderation. If you get drunk and do something stupid, that’s evil. You’re not supposed to do that. Drunkenness is not moderation.”

In the meantime, the state’s alcohol laws are focused on protecting children, and protecting adults from overindulging, which Bartels understands. But the inconsistencies in the rules for different segments of the industry need to be worked on by the commission.

“There has been a state commission consistently looking at the state’s alcohol laws for years. But not much has changed,” Bartels said. “And there are people like me who deal with it. We understand it. We want to help them understand why some things need to be changed.

“Our laws need to be looked at differently.”

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