NDIANAPOLIS - Amid a fight to sell cold beer, Ricker’s Convenience Store pulled out their latest tactic Tuesday — free burritos.
Lawmakers, statehouse employees and some passerby’s hoping for free food, lined up next to the Ricker’s food truck outside of the statehouse to get some of the infamous Tex-Mex.
The convenience store recently started selling cold carryout beer at two of its locations with a restaurant license, much to the frustration of Republican leaders. Both House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) and Senate leader David Long (R-Fort Wayne) spoke out against the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, saying it was wrong for them to issue the permits.
To them, it went against the will of the General Assembly, but to Gov. Eric Holcomb, the ATC was following the law.
Lawmakers amended bills already in play with provisions that would effectively kill Ricker’s cold beer sale plans, and prohibit other convenience stores from taking advantage of the restaurant liquor licenses. The House’s plan would allow Ricker’s to keep their two current licenses until they expire in nine months. Other convenience stores that have been in operation for years would be forced to stop selling cold beer as well, like Joan & Yogi’s One Stop in Terre Haute and Fishtail Food Mart Cafe in Evansville.
Jay Ricker, owner of Ricker’s, wanted to prove to lawmakers that his convenience store restaurants operated exactly like other restaurants, and convince them to let him continue his business.
Leaders have consistently said it would be an exaggeration to consider Ricker’s Convenience store’s set up a restaurant.
“I will tell you that it’s a daily surprise how widespread the definition of restaurant has become,” Senate leader Long said last week. “It seems as simple as 25 folding chairs, a picnic table and a microwave with a couple frozen burritos and you’re a restaurant, which is absurd.” So Jay Ricker brought his burritos to lawmakers with his food truck. The only thing missing was the cold beer. Speaker Bosma even got in line “to support Jay’s business,” and try his first Ricker’s burrito.
“It’s never been about Jay and we made that clear to him personally, although it’s not always been depicted that way,” Bosma said. “It’s about who controls where alcohol is sold, including spirits.”
After Bosma got his free burrito he took a picture in front of a sign that said, “Yes, I would bring my spouse to eat here!” in reference to remarks Bosma made previously about the store not being a place you would take your wife. Another nearby sign read “Made fresh. Not in a microwave.” But if Ricker’s was hoping to influence the House leader, they likely won’t have any luck. Bosma still plans to go through with legislation halting restaurant liquor licenses for convenience stores. He said there is currently a lawyer going around to Indiana convenience stores encouraging them to get their liquor licenses before being cut off by legislation.
Bosma intends to study the issue during the summer, to clean up Indiana code relating to liquor licensing, however first he said they need to stop other stores from following in Ricker’s footsteps.
While Ricker may be trying to influence the vote with burritos, those in the alcohol industry consistently give money to lawmakers in critical roles. In 2016 alone, Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette), the chair of a committee that frequently deals with alcohol legislation, received at least $28,000 from those in the industry, about a third of his total contributions for the year.
“As I’m standing here looking up at one of the state buildings, it says Indiana, a state that works. I don’t know if I would say that today,” Jay Ricker said addressing press in front of his food truck. “It works fine for the liquor lobby, but it doesn’t seem to work well for a lot of other businesses.”