Alcohol Regulation Roundup and Update on Four Loko: January 7, 2011

Update on Four Loko: After being pulled off of shelves by FDA decree, the wholesalers who purchased of alcoholic energy drinks such as Four Loko were left with a large stock of unusable products, representing a devastating loss of their investment. Now, rather than destroying the product, these distributors are sending leftover stock to ethanol recycling facilities. Presumably, the companies are getting less money by selling the drinks to ethanol plants, rather than thirsty college students. Let’s just hope that the government doesn’t start banning other products in order to then purchase the leftovers at a discount.

California: A new law went into effect this past Saturday in California which makes anyone older than 21 years old liable for property damage, injury, or death resulting from knowingly providing alcohol to minors.

Indiana: Legislators in Indiana will meet in Indianapolis next week to talk about how to address the state’s $800 million deficit. Regulators will address demands by grocery and convenience stores to overturn the ban on Sunday liquor sales. In addition, lawmakers said they’ll attempt to repeal the “ID everyone” law passed last session that required retailers to check the ID of everyone — regardless of how old they appear to be.

Mississippi: The legislature in Mississippi will consider for the third time a “Social Host Bill,” which will make adults responsible if minors are found drinking alcohol in their homes.

New York: File this one under “inertia wins“. A New York State law that had required retailers to register the name, driver’s license, and address of any customer purchasing a keg expired just before Thanksgiving. The rule, which was signed into law by Governor George Pataki in 2003, required stores to keep the info, including amount of beer purchased, on file for 90 days and imposed a fee of $450 if the keg was returned without the registration tag.

New Jersey: In New Jersey, where liquor licenses are notoriously restricted, BYOB restaurants abound. With the economic downturn making it more difficult for restaurants to make a profit some lawmakers are mulling the idea of allowing them to purchase limited liquor licenses that would allow BYOBs to sell beer and wine. State Se. James Beach made the push last year to change New Jersey’s liquor licensing structure, but was met with resistance from many sides, especially those establishments that have already shelled out big bucks, sometimes more than $500,000 for liquor licenses.

North Carolina: Elected officials in Statesville, North Carolina, voted unanimously to oppose any proposed privatization of the state’s liquor distribution system. This comes in the wake of Governor Berverly Perdue’s investigation into the idea of hiring a private company to manage the state’s liquor control system. A study on privatization commissioned by the governor will be released later this month. Other groups, such as the Christian Action League of North Carolina, which was formed during Prohibition, also declared their opposition to the plan.

In more North Carolina news: Residents in Fair Bluff will have an opportunity next month to vote on a ballot measure during next February’s special election that would overturn an old town ordinance allowing restaurants to sell beer where currently they can only sell wine.

Virginia: Governor Bob McDonnell is about to take another shot at privatizing the state’s liquor stores. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the new plan (as yet to be released) mirrors some elements of Ohio’s system of alcohol distribution. In Ohio, liquor is sold by private stores that receive a commission from the state, prices are set by the state, and the state acts as wholesaler and distributor — selling retail stores the booze they then sell to residents. While this might garner the support McDonnell needs to pass some kind of privatization plan, if the state is still so deeply vested in the sale of liquor, would it really be privatization? I will have a lot more to say about this next week after the McDonnell camp releases the new proposal.