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Happy hours, to-go drink sales coming to Indiana this summer

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(The Center Square) – Starting this summer, bars and restaurants across Indiana will be able to offer services and specials patrons can receive in many states. That’s thanks to a bill Gov. Eric Holcomb recently.

The Republican governor held a special ceremony at The Whistle Stop Inn in Indianapolis to celebrate the signing of House Bill 1086 into law. Sponsored by state Rep. Jake Teshka, R-North Liberty, the bill allows establishments to bring back “happy hour” periods during the day.

“Alright, July 1, happy days are here again,” Holcomb told the crowd at the event last Thursday.

HB 1086 reverses a law legislators passed 39 years ago in an attempt to curb drunk driving. Indiana was one of eight states that prohibited bars, taverns and restaurants from offering reduced prices on alcoholic beverages during specific times of the day.

Starting in July, establishments will be able to reduce prices for up to four hours a day and 15 hours per week. However, specials will not be allowed between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. the next day.

Initially, Teshka’s bill called for a five-hour ban starting at 10 p.m. The Senate, though, revised the bill to extend the daily prohibition and to prevent establishments from selling alcoholic cocktails to-go. The conference committee reached an agreement earlier this month to keep the longer dark hours in exchange for bringing back the to-go sales provisions.

When the law takes effect, the Hoosier State will join 24 states that permanently let bars and restaurants sell alcohol as part of to-go orders. This option became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic when many establishments were forced to either limit the number of patrons who could dine there or close their doors completely to dine-in business.

All four of Indiana’s neighbors have policies to authorize to-go sales. Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio all have permanent laws. The law in Illinois, one of eight states with a law allowing temporary sales, is set to expire on Aug. 1, 2028.

“Cocktails to-go provide stability for hospitality businesses and offer a great way for consumers to enjoy their favorite cocktails at home,” said Andy Deloney, senior vice president and head of state public policy for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

Among the other groups that supported HB 1086 was the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, which thanked Teshka and state Sen. Kyle Walker, R-Lawrence, for their efforts to change the state’s liquor laws.

Walker, in a statement, said he backed the bill because it would help economic development across the state.

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