INDIANAPOLIS — The Republican-controlled House voted 58-38 Tuesday to override local opposition and establish a process to allow alcohol sales at the Indiana Dunes State Park pavilion.
House Bill 1247, which goes to the Senate, enables the Department of Natural Resources to obtain a new "state park" alcohol permit, for any or all of its parks, without having to follow most of the procedures typically required to get state permission to sell beer, wine or liquor — including local review.
The sponsor of the measure, state Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, emphasized it's not about the Dunes specifically, but rather part of a statewide effort to "leverage our state parks and provide services and amenities that otherwise may not happen."
State Reps. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, and Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, told the House no issue has generated as much reaction from their constituents as the Dunes pavilion.
The lawmakers said Region residents believe their emphatic opposition to the project, which twice prompted the Porter County Alcoholic Beverage Commission to deny an alcohol sales license to the Pavilion Partners redevelopment company, is being ignored.
"It's really tapped a nerve locally about how people feel about privatization and how they feel about assets being used for somebody to make money," Pelath said.
In response, state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, a co-sponsor of the plan along with state Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, said the pavilion project will produce more money for the state and revitalize a deteriorating structure.
"I think it's good policy for the state of Indiana to allow these licenses," Brown said.