SOUTH BEND — Sensing an opportunity to market its product to a targeted audience, Indiana Whiskey Co. began selling its line of craft whiskeys at farmer’s markets in Indiana late last year, relying on a new state law that allows brewers and distillers to participate in trade shows or expositions 45 days out of the year.
“We met with (Indiana State Excise Police) and they let us know farmer’s markets would probably be a good idea,” Charlie Florance, founder and owner of the business, said Tuesday. “So for about six months we were operating in farmer’s markets in South Bend, Fort Wayne, Chesterton, Indianapolis, and things were going great.”
In May, however, state Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, a co-sponsor of the law, put an abrupt stop to the practice, Florance said — reportedly in response to complaints about unfair competition from an unnamed liquor distributor in the state.
“He called the chairman of the (Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission) and said, ‘Hey, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I don’t like the farmer’s market thing. You should put it on ice,’” Florance said.
Now, after paring back production and laying off several employees as a result of the decision, Indiana Whiskey is fighting back.
The South Bend-based distillery launched an online crowdfunding campaign — the “22 Campaign to Fight Prohibition” — on July 1 in an attempt to raise as much as $20,000 to challenge the decision in court.
The distillery is offering 22 percent off of select products for 22 days, with proceeds benefiting efforts to loosen the state’s notoriously strict liquor laws, which, among other things, restrict cold beer sales to liquor stores and ban most carry-out sales on Sundays.
The “22” refers to Alting’s senate district, which encompasses parts of Tippecanoe County, about 63 miles northwest of Indianapolis.