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.