INDIANAPOLIS – Rich Pontolillo might merit a toast for his Super Bowl party preparations. He has beer and liquor stocked up ahead of the first Super Bowl ever held in his home state.
In Indiana, he didn't have much choice about planning ahead: The state is among a handful that ban carryout liquor sales on Sundays, even with the NFL's most-celebrated spectacle on the schedule.
"It just requires some advance planning," shrugs Pontolillo, a 54-year-old remodeling contractor from Indy.
There was never much chance of getting Indiana's "blue law" suspended, just this once. A spokeswoman for Gov. Mitch Daniels, Jane Jankowski, said the issue was never raised and some of the city's business owners say they understand why.
"I'm not surprised at all," said Paul Thistle, general manager of the downtown Kahn's Fine Wines and Spirits and two other locations nearby. "If they waive it for this event, then they have to defend themselves for not waiving it at other events. It puts them in a difficult position."
The nation's few remaining blue laws are mostly in the South and Midwest and tend to limit liquor or car sales on Sundays. The name is believed to have derived either from 18th century usage of the word "blue" to disparage those with puritanical beliefs or from an early set of rules in New Haven, Conn., that were printed on blue paper.
Indiana restaurants and taverns can get permits to serve alcohol for on-premises consumption from 7 a.m. through the wee hours of the next day all week long, including Sundays. And nothing forbids anyone 21 or older from walking around outside with a beer or cocktail, prompting many Indy eateries to expand their outside seating onto adjacent parking lots and sidewalks in the run-up to Sunday night's game.
But state law bars liquor and convenience stores from selling carryout booze after 3 a.m. Sunday until 7 a.m. Monday, leaving Super Bowl revelers — perhaps out-of-towners not versed in all things Indiana — in the lurch if they go looking for an 11th-hour six-pack or bottle of wine on game day.
Thistle said many visiting fans already have placed orders. And he plans to close his businesses two hours later — at 1 a.m. — in the days preceding the Super Bowl, taking full advantage of an "uptick" in sales even before the big wave of out-of-state fans arrive.
"Business so far is probably double or triple what it normally is, and we expect the coming weekend to be better," he said.
As vice president of a company that has 22 liquor stores in Indianapolis, United Package Liquors' Brad Rider would have liked to see an exception made for Super Bowl Sunday. But he said he does not favor lifting the law altogether simply because it's not feasible to staff his stores to sell only a small list of products allowed by law, 10 items in all.
Far from Indy, one community is making a change.
With some 2,400 residents, Dillingham, Alaska, is lifting its ban on alcohol sales at its restaurants and bars for all Super Bowl Sundays going forward, though liquor stores will remain closed. The reprieve had been temporarily in place last year and proved trouble-free, prompting it to be made permanent last month in a town some 1,665 miles from the nearest NFL team — Seattle's Seahawks.
Back in Indiana, Rider figures the homestate Hoosiers — and their Super Bowl visitors — won't struggle finding spirits this Sunday, ban or no ban.
"Not at all," he says.
Associated Press writer Rachel D'Oro contributed to this report from Anchorage, Alaska.