Thursday, April 21, 2011

Indefinite Hiatus

Well, given that it's been a year since this was last updated clearly I don't have the time I used to devote to it. So the blog is going on indefinite hiatus.

I still update my personal blog, though not as often either.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

LCB Approves Spokane AIA

Acronym Acronym? Acronym. What this translates to is yesterday, the WA Liquor Control Board approved a Mandatory Alcohol Impact Area for downtown Spokane. This makes it the third area in the state where certain kinds of low-cost, high-octane beer and wine are prohibited from sale for off-premises consumption.

This makes Spokane the third city to ask for a mandatory AIA; Tacoma has one and Seattle has two: the Downtown Core and the U-District. As you can clearly see, AIAs have proven effective in decreasing public drunkenness there. Just not at stopping fires in the middle of the U-District's streets, which is a time honored tradition.

AIAs start out as a "voluntary' process, in which the City outlines an area, identifies the sellers authorized for off-premises consumption, and works with them to voluntarily restrict sales of targeted products. If this is unsuccessful, the City can ask the LCB to declare a 'mandatory' AIA, forcing those licensees to stop sales of requested brands.

What I do find interesting is that the restricted wines and beers are listed by actual brand name, rather than by common characteristics. So for example, this allows Elysian Brewing's Elysian Fields Brewery (on the Southern edge of the Downtown Core AIA) to sell their (excellent) AK-47 Malt Liquor in growlers, while a liquor store in Pioneer Square can't sell Colt-45 or Old English. This targeted crackdown on specific brands is no doubt valid under the old Young's Market 'power to ban outright = power to do anything less' reasoning, the staple of Liquor Control Board authority across the country. But I do wonder how the targeting of individual brands would stand up under more recent jurisprudence.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Washington LCB Changes Advertising Rules

Yesterday the LCB issued a ruling changing some of Washington's rules regarding advertising of alcohol and industry companies. Most of the changes define and update the current rules, but a few are worth noting.

Probably most important are new restrictions on outdoor advertising, under WAC 314-52.-070. The section was amended:
to restrict the number of signs advertising alcohol, brand names, and/or manufacturers that are visible from the public right of way on the outside of a retail premises to a total of four. The size of the signs is limited to 1600 square inches. Amended language to restrict outdoor advertising within 500 feet of places of worship, schools, public playgrounds, or athletic fields used primarily by children.
So no more than 4 signs visible from a roadway, no bigger than 40"x40", and restricted away from youth areas. Presumably this would also impact neon signs, so for example bars with more than four neon signs in their windows might have to remove some.

Also of note was a lot of rulemaking regarding 'money or money's worth' given by industry members to fundraisers and events, and several rules were updated. The LCB also created a new rule:
New Section – WAC 314-52-120 – Sponsorship of public and civic events.
Created a rule to address sponsorship of public and civic events by industry members. Industry members may provide the following:
  • Signage with the industry members name or brand name of their products; and
  • Programs or flyers to be disseminated at the event.
Acknowledgement of the industry member is allowed in any media advertisement where the function recognizes the sponsors of the event. The size of the alcohol industry member sponsor acknowledgement may not exceed the size of the event name.
Inflatables are not allowed inside the event area.
There may be no giveaways of alcohol promotional items of any kind to persons under 21 years of age.
Many of the comments to the rulemaking were from non-profits and foundations expressing concern over the new rules. The fear is that the more complicated money's worth rules will make sponsorship impossible, or at least unattractive.

The LCB Explanatory Statement can be found here (.pdf).

The new rules will go into effect on April 4th.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Chemist's War

Great article up on Slate, The Chemist's War: The little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition with deadly consequences.

During Prohibition people were using industrial grade alcohol to make mixed drinks. Problem was, in order to be 'tax free' industrial alcohol by law had to be (and continues to be) "denatured". Which, as we know, is a polite euphemism for 'Poisoned."

But those plucky mobsters in their big hats paid chemists a fortune to 're-nature' tens of thousands of gallons of stolen industrial hooch. So the government steadily increased the toxicity of the chemicals used to denature the spirits. Which meant the mob chemist-treated bootleg alcohol was of increasingly varying quality and safety.

Estimates are that nearly 10,000 people died during Prohibition from drinking government poisoned alcohol.

What's most interesting is the sort of "they brought it on themselves" mentality that Congress took, even while people were dying in the hundreds every holiday season.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

WA on the way to approving tastings at grocery stores.

WA House Bill 2688 passed a couple days ago, and it now goes to the Senate for approval. The bill writes last year's tasting pilot program into law, and in brief:
  • Allows grocery stores (defined as at least 9,000 square feet, with groceries constituting at least 50% of their business) to purchase a $200 endorsement allowing them to conduct tastings of beer and wine in-store so long as they have had no more than one public safety violation in the last two years.
  • There must be a suitable area that minors and already intoxicated persons can be screened from.
  • Service is limited to two, 2-ounce tastes per person. Food must also be made available. Customers must remain in the service area while drinking.
  • Servers of the licensee must have the mandatory MAST training and permits.
  • There are several tied-house provisions. For example, advertising is restricted and must be conducted and paid for by the store itself. The store must pay for the samples itself, they may not be donated by the brewer or winery.
  • However, exceptions to the tied house provisions allow wineries and breweries to conduct the actual tastings themselves, including bottle signing, talks, etc.. However, participation of the brewers/vintners may not be required by the store.
  • The bill provides for a variety of punishments for violations, including suspension and/or revocation of the endorsement, and up to a $500 fine.
  • It also allows the LCB the right to refuse endorsements or place restrictions in Alcohol Impact Areas (AIAs), where chronic inebriation is a recognized problem.
The Senate Bill is SB 6329.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Iowa Judge: Jello Shots are a Beverage

News from Iowa City where an ALJ has ruled:
"There is no evidence in the record to support the licensee's argument that -- simply because vodka was mixed with Jell-O mix -- it lost its character as an alcoholic beverage," Lockard wrote. "While there might be some debate in another context as to whether Jell-O is a food item or beverage, in this context ... the Jell-O shots served by the licensee were alcoholic beverages."
Apparently the bar was fined $500 for Service to Minors involving a Jello Shot, in response to which it argued that Jello Shots are not technically an alcoholic beverage, as the gelatin is, well, a gel, not a liquid. Nice try anyway.

Monday, February 1, 2010

South Butt vs. North Face

This doesn't really have anything to do with alcohol per se, though I suspect some may have been involved in the drafting of this answer. The clothing company North Face is suing South Butt, LLC, for trademark infringement. South Butt has responded by arguing a 1st Amendment parody defense. Their Answer to the North Face Complaint is hilarious, and well worth reading even if you're not a lawyer.

The South Butt Answer to the North Face

My favorite parts:
  • Describing the defendant as a "cherubic teenager" who "may have turned 19 years of age, while he looks 14, and to some, acts 12".
  • "the consuming public is well aware of the difference between a face and a butt"
  • "Despite [the company's adventurous image] Plaintiff's products are perceived as being consumed by those who have little to no interest in living an adventurous lifestyle, but, rather, are interested in acquiring Plaintiff's products for the status and/or notoriety they receive from being seen in Plaintiff's expensive apparel and accessories." ... "Defendants recognized this bizarre phenomenon."
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The Twentyfirst Amendment Meets the 21st Century by Russell Hews Everett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. The opinions expressed on this page are purely my own, and should not be taken to constitute legal representation or advice.