Des Moines Register: Iowa Restaurants, Bars Look to Change Prohibition-Era Liquor Laws

From the Des Moines Register:

Tea party activists, move over. Here come the cocktail party activists.

The Iowa Restaurant Association and several prominent Iowa food establishments and bars have targeted the Iowa Capitol for a hospitality-minded lobbying campaign. They’re proposing to toast an end to what they see as antiquated alcoholic beverage statutes, some of them enacted before Prohibition.

If these folks have their way, state lawmakers will legalize trendy drinks that Iowa restaurants and taverns are now banned from making. Some examples include cocktails aged in oak barrels, distilled spirits flavored with herbs, known as bitters, and infused vodka steeped in glass jars for a week or so with raspberries, cherries, or even bacon.

Beyond seeking to add panache to Iowa’s drinking and dining scene, proponents of the change see the current rules as the kind of government over-regulation of business that Iowa lawmakers have pledged to end.

However, state alcohol regulators say the rules have the public’s interest at heart: They’re designed to prevent health risks from contaminated drinks or such practices as substituting a cheaper liquor for a more expensive brand.

Scott Carlson, managing partner of Court Avenue Brewing Company in downtown Des Moines, said he didn’t even know such restrictions existed until last year. His employees had long been mixing vodka with cucumbers, dill and red and green peppers, letting the flavors sink in for several days to make Bloody Marys for weekend customers visiting the Farmers Market.

“It had been a fantastic vodka for that purpose, and then they said, ‘Oh, you can’t do it,’ ” Carlson explained. “We said, ‘What?’ We had been doing it for about 10 years.”


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