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State limits high-proof liquor bottle sizes

BY KATHRYN STINSON | FEBRUARY 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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State officials want to limit the size of some high-proof liquor bottles and possibly require Iowans to document when they purchase them, they said in a public forum Thursday.

Around 25 people attended the forum, the second such event sponsored by the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, in the IMU to discuss a possible ban on high-proof beverages.

The state will begin to stock only 750-milliter bottles of liquor with proofs more than 100 after this week, said Alcoholic Division Administrator Lynn Walding.

Iowans will be able to purchase various sizes of the 32 liquors in that range while supplies last, including Everclear, which is available in four different sizes.

The agency directed staff to investigate potential customer-registration requirements on high-proof liquors, much like the current registration required when people purchase kegs. It also suggested expanding alcohol-education opportunities.

“There is an alarming trend in the ramping up of beverages with a higher alcohol content,” Walding said at the forum. “These products can cause more issues.”

Before the agency discussed recommendations, it opened the floor for public comment.

Doug Alberhasky of John’s Grocery, 401 E. Market St., expressed concern with the commission’s possible decision to ban high-proof alcoholic beverages. He said he thought prohibiting the beverage would create a “forbidden fruit” effect.

“What seems to be a good idea in theory tends to bite you in the butt,” he said.

Other community members disagreed with Alberhasky, voicing strong support for the ban or imposing an increased tax.

Frank Durham, a University of Iowa associate professor, said he supported making the bottles more expensive by increasing the state’s tax on them. He also advocated restricting the higher-proof beverages all together.

“Limiting the proof would lower the ceiling or Russian roulette that kids are playing when they don’t know what the impact may be,” he said.

Alcohol Division members and the public agreed alcohol education should remain a priority, but they varied on how to specifically limit the distribution or size of high-proof beverages.

Walding suggested developing a small public-service advertisement to promote alcohol safety, which would fit over the neck of a bottle. Discussion on the neck piece included possibly displaying information on alcohol serving size or how to use the product safely.

UI student Simon Holoubek, who sits on the UI’s Partnership for Alcohol Safety and also works at John’s, said he was concerned about the ads on the bottle idea.

“I question how effective that would be for education,” he said. “I also wonder if the liquor shelf-stockers would take them off the bottles.”

Agency members said they plan to continue discussion on how the state will regulate high-proof beverages. They hope to host another public forum before May 1, when Walding’s appointment as division administrator will end.

The Alcohol Division began looking into the issue after an incident at Drake University in which a student drank enough Everclear to be hospitalized.


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