Don't be Loko!

Like everyone else in our business, I’ve been following the caffeine-and-alcohol drink saga involving brands like Four Loko and Joos. No surprise, they’ll be off retail shelves by mid-December. Intense public outrage followed the hospitalization of nine Central Washington University students who’d been partying hard with Four Loko last month; subsequent reports of underage binge drinking involving Four Lokos and similar products quickly surfaced. Four states banned the packaged caffeinated alcohol beverages. In the midst of the fury, the FDA released the results of a year-long investigation of the caffeinated alcohol beverages, and then issued warning letters to four producers, urging them to reformulate or risk seizure (the addition of caffeine renders the products “adulterated”).

With those products barely off the market, the public and the regulators are now tuned into another binge-friendly product: alcohol-infused whipped cream. Whipped Lightning (15 percent ABV) is available nationally, while Canisters of Cream (30 percent ABV) just hit store shelves in Massachusetts. You can only imagine what buzz-seekers are doing with those.

Bar and club owners watching the drama play out in retail stores — and maybe heaving a sigh of relief that for once the headlines aren’t screaming that the nation’s bars are flooding the roads with drunk drivers — should take note and take heed. Ours is a culture highly sensitive to the dangers of excess. Right now, the focus is college kids binging on high-octane, lowbrow products easily bought at the corner convenience store. Next week, it could be nightclub bottle service or two-fers and discount drink promos at bars. Now’s the time — especially with the holidays right around the corner — to ask yourself a few pointed questions:

• Does my club or bar promote over-consumption through its promotions or service practices?
• Are all my bartenders, servers, door hosts and managers recently trained and certified in responsible alcohol service?

If your answer to these two questions is “I don’t know” your business is seriously at risk. We’re all responsible to ensure the safety of our patrons and our communities; when we don’t do that diligently, we endanger them and, in turn, our businesses.

Don’t be “loko.” There’s no sense in waiting for a violation or, worse, an accident. Do the right things now for a truly Happy New Year.

PS: If you want to know if a specific promotion or practice is “irresponsible,” send a query by clicking here.

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