The Indiana Senate passed legislation Tuesday on a 38-9 vote that advocates believe could lead to the creation of the state’s own bourbon trail.
Senate Bill 1296 would allow craft micro-distilleries to operate in Indiana. Businesses could sell hard alcohol on-site or serve samples. Few distilleries exist in Indiana, and they can produce hard alcohol only for wholesale distribution to retailers.
Like the ban on the sale of alcohol in stores on Sundays, the restriction on distilleries is a blue law throwback to Prohibition. Michigan, Ohio and Illinois already allow distilleries to sell alcohol on-site. Kentucky is home to the world-famous bourbon trail.
Indiana businesses see the change in law as a potential boon for tourism. Popular local brewery Sun King, Munster beer brewer Three Floyds Brewing and Huber’s Orchard, Vineyard and Winery in Starlight, near Louisville, Ky., all plan to open micro-distilleries. They plan a mix of homemade bourbons, vodkas and whiskeys.
Other entrepreneurs who want to start distilleries had complained the bill picked favorites after it passed the House. The bill would have allowed permits to be issued only if applicants had been operating a winery or brewery for at least three years — a way to ensure businesses had responsible records. Start-ups would have been forced to apply for a distillery permit and then begin a three-year waiting period.
The Senate changed the bill to give start-ups time to avoid the three-year waiting period. The start-ups, however, would face stricter regulations on serving alcohol for their first three years.
The Senate approved the bill 38-9. The author, Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, will not protest the changes made in the Senate. That means the bill will head to Gov. Mike Pence’s desk.
The federal government already enforces tighter restrictions on distilleries than on breweries and wineries, including FBI background checks on applicants.