30 Jun Cardinal Spirits Lobbies for Sunday Craft Liquor Sales and Wins
Hoosiers can look forward to at least three things in the early part of July: the chance to celebrate the independence of our nation by blowing up a small part of it with heavy-duty fireworks; explosion-filled, tentpole films released to coincide with the holiday weekend; and new laws going on the books. One of the newest going on the books will change the law for carryout hard liquor.
As of July 1, 2016, artisan distilleries will be permitted to engage in carryout sales on Sundays. It’s yet another piece of legislation benefitting local craft alcohol producers. Indiana On Tap spoke with Jeff Wuslich about the new law. Wuslich is one of the founders of Cardinal Spirits and has spent recent years lobbying the state legislature to change the laws governing Sunday sales for hard liquor.
Indiana On Tap: July 3 will be the first time since Prohibition that liquor carryout sales will be allowed on a Sunday. How does it feel to be one of the forces behind the change?
Jeff Wuslich: It feels great. I think that both Indiana legislators and regular consumers in Indiana both see the value in craft products being made in Indiana. And I’m excited to be one of the first to sell hard alcohol on a Sunday.
Indiana On Tap: How long have these lobbying efforts been in place for carryout sales for Indiana artisan distilleries?
Jeff Wuslich: The artisan bill started in 2013. And then in ’14 and this year, we lobbied for it and we were able to get it to pass this year.
Indiana On Tap: Why has it been so difficult to change the rules of Sunday sales in Indiana?
Jeff Wuslich: Legislators always want to make sure that alcohol is being served and sold in a responsible way. I think they’re doing that with us for sure. So I think it’s always a balance between conflicting interests.
Indiana On Tap: I know in previous efforts to pass Sunday sales some of the pushback has come from liquor stores and grocery stores for various reasons. I know liquor stores have in mind increased labor costs by selling on Sundays. There’s some contention with grocery stores because they seem to ask for the ability to sell cold liquor and cold beer. Do you think the rules for Sunday sales as a whole will change in the near future?
Jeff Wuslich: I don’t know, I’m probably not the best person to answer that question. I think the legislator sees the value of locally produced beers being sold on Sundays, to give you an example. I don’t know if they’re going to make a change to the larger laws.
Indiana On Tap: As far as legislative efforts go, what’s next, if anything, for artisan distilleries?
Jeff Wuslich: Legislative-wise, I think we would like to see more artisan distillers, to make it easier for artisan distillers to start up. I think, in general, we’re going to be looking for more parity with breweries and wineries.
Indiana On Tap: I’ve worked at a couple breweries and I know from talking to the owners that there’s a significantly higher cost to getting licensed to distill. And it’s a longer waiting process than to open, say a winery or brewery. Do you think that’s related to the fact that the products of distilleries tend to be higher octane, so to speak, than products of a brewery or winery?
Jeff Wuslich: Certainly the federal government makes it more difficult to start a distillery. And also there’re different requirements for insurance and your facilities that make it harder to go from a brewery right into a distillery. A shot of hard alcohol, a can of beer, and a glass of wine all have the same alcohol content. But the production and safety requirements are much more significant for a distillery than for a brewery or for a winery.
Indiana On Tap: Has there been any sort of collaboration in terms of lobbying with the Brewers Guild of Indiana or similarly-minded entities?
Jeff Wuslich: There hasn’t been an official, coordinated effort, but there’s been a lot of support from the breweries and wineries for sure. They’re good partners.
Indiana On Tap: I’ve noticed that the local craft alcohol industry is still at the point where everyone is friendly and supportive of each other. The attitude of “If you do well, I do well.”
Jeff Wuslich: That’s definitely part of it. Kind of like a rising tide lifts all ships right now.
Indiana On Tap: Versus the crab pot where the crabs try to escape the pot and drag each other down. It’s been kind of nice. I’ve been surprised by how readily the state legislature has changed the carryout laws. It’s a big win for consumers and a big win for local businesses.
Jeff Wuslich: We’ve put about $2 million into the state economy over the last two years. We’re certainly making an impact.
Indiana On Tap: What kind of effect do you anticipate Sunday sales having on your business?
Jeff Wuslich: We know that we’re creating at least one new job, we’re hiring a tour guide. And we expect that sales on Sunday will match those on Saturday. We’re excited to see some growth for sure.
Jeff Wuslich: We’re under the same restrictions. People are limited to a case per transaction: six 750 mL bottles at a time.
Indiana On Tap: How does your customer base compare to the local craft beer scene and the local wine scene? What kind of overlap, if any, is there?
Jeff Wuslich: There’s a lot of overlap. I think there’s a lot of people who appreciate high-quality, locally-made products, be it beer, wine, or liquor. So we see a lot of overlap and we’re good friends and work together with a lot of breweries and wineries here in town.
Indiana On Tap: Speaking of working with local wineries and breweries, do you see any potential collaborations down the road, such as a winery using your barrels to make port or a brewery using them for barrel-aged beers?
Jeff Wuslich: We have a collaboration going right now with Oliver Winery. We took some of their wine and turned it into brandy. We’re maturing it here in barrels. We’ve talked with Upland about doing a fun collaboration using some of the botanicals we use for gin. So I think there’s a lot of cool opportunities for sure.
Indiana On Tap: What kind of future do you see for distilleries, wineries, and breweries in the state of Indiana?
Jeff Wuslich: I think Indiana is a great place for craft brewing, wineries, and spirits. We have a tremendous amount of agriculture that can support us with raw materials. We have a strong manufacturing base that can support us with the right equipment and logistics to grow craft business. And we have just some of the best and most loyal customers that are proud to be a Hoosier. I think the future is bright, I think we’re going to see a lot more growth and I think we’re going to see some of our bigger brands expand regionally and nationally.