State Sen. Karen
Tallian, D-Portage, testified on Monday against HB 1247 before the Senate
Public Policy Committee,
“HB 1247 would
allow DNR to have a license to serve alcohol at the state parks, and would
exempt the vendor from applying for a permit. It is my understanding that
the DNR already has general liquor licenses for all of its properties. But
in each case now, the vendor also must go through the process of obtaining a
license through regular procedures.
“On the surface,
this is a bill that would apply generally across all the state parks. Just
under the surface, however, there is a boiling pot of contention that has
been playing out in my district for about 2 years.
“The Indiana Dunes
State Park is in Porter County, along the shores of Lake Michigan, next to
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, all of this park is within Senate District
“On the premises,
there is an old pavilion that needs repair and renovation.
“In 2012, the DNR
came to me and said they wanted to have the ability to enter into a contract
with a vendor who could operate a restaurant and would do the renovations as
part of a long-term lease. But they couldn’t get any interest for a
fine-dining restaurant unless they could serve alcohol.
“So we passed
legislation, allowing the DNR to do that, but this would require the vendor
to go through all the ordinary steps to obtain an alcohol permit.
“In 2014, the DNR
did a request for proposals, and entered into a lease. The terms of that
lease are quite controversial and caused a lot of strife in our community.
The vendor applied for the alcohol permit, and to make a long story short,
the vendor was denied . . . on multiple occasions.
“There was a
battle, and the vendor lost.
“So now, and this
is the part that irritates me, having lost the battle going through normal
procedures, the vendor finds a sympathetic legislator--outside of the
district--to do an end-run. And by the way, no legislator who represents
Porter County is a sponsor of this bill.
“‘Give us a liquor
license by statute.’ And this is wrong. It is an abuse of the process. And
for this reason, more than any other single reason, I oppose this bill.”