Dennis Herrera

Beyond Four Loko: Dennis Herrera Now Trying to Ban Alcohol Merely For Being Sugary

Back in 2007, City Attorney Dennis Herrera led the charge against Sparks, claiming caffeinated malt liquor presented a danger to the public and was inherently marketed to adolescents.  Those antics inevitably worked: in late-2008, MillerCoors announced they were removing caffeine from Sparks, making it an everyday beer that happened to taste like SweeTarts.  He then went on a similar crusade against Four Loko that yielded the same results.

Apparently Herrera was not satisfied with companies only removing caffeine from their drinks, as today the now-mayoral candidate is going after Pabst for making fruit-flavored beer:

City Attorney Dennis Herrera today joined 17 attorneys general from U.S. states and one territory to call on Pabst Brewing Company to stop selling “Blast by Colt 45,” a highly intoxicating, supersized alcoholic beverage marketed to young consumers. The Woodridge, Ill.-based company launched the new product earlier this month in a colorful array of 23.5 ounce single serving cans and assorted flavors that include grape, strawberry lemonade, strawberry watermelon, and blueberry pomegranate. With an alcohol concentration of 12 percent, a single can of Blast contains the equivalent of nearly five servings of alcohol — which, if consumed within an hour, meets the standard for “binge drinking” as defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. […]

“Just as we're seeing real progress from companies and regulators to address the dangers of 'alcopops,' along comes fruit-flavored 'binge-in-a-can,'” said Herrera.  “When people open a chilled, carbonated beverage, they tend to drink it before it goes warm and flat.  That Pabst actually printed 'Please drink responsibly' on a 23.5-ounce can, with 12 percent alcohol, is just absurd.  You can't drink it responsibly unless you throw most of it away.  There's nothing responsible about 'Blast,' and Pabst needs to fix it.”

Is he next going to go back after Four Loko for selling caffeine-free tall cans of fruity beer?  Perhaps ban wine coolers?  And as SFist's Andrew Dalton says, “someone should ban pre-mixed Cosmos because they make dopey Cougars all violent and horny.”

Four Loko

Sparks, Four Loko, and Dennis Herrera's Unwinnable War Against Disgusting Malt Liquor

Remember the days of drinking Sparks in the mid-2000s? For less than two bucks, you could score a 16oz can of cracked-out coffee that was 7% alcohol.  Sure, it wasn’t enough to get you drunk on its own, but it was a great way to keep a party going or stealthily start drinking during class or at work.  Yeah, everyone had a few insane benders drinking the stuff and it sure was irresponsible to start drinking booze in front of customers at 6pm, but the boss didn’t care and the customers didn’t know it was malt liquor.  Like with any other type alcohol, we had a few hazy evenings and maybe puked on our neighbor’s stoop, but generally everything was fine.

But then something happened in 2007: a bunch of teetotalers in our own city of San Francisco started pressuring City Attorney Dennis Herrera to sue Sparks’ manufacturer MillerCoors for being “unsafe” and “marketing itself to children.”  A year later, MillerCoors announced caffeine would removed from Sparks and their sales predictably plummeted (let’s face it, no one drank the shit for the taste).  During a naive victory speech, Herrera lauded that the move would eliminate “85 percent of caffeine-spiked booze from the market.”

While Herrera and his allies recognized that what was drawing cool kids and partiers to Sparks was the caffeine, they failed to realize the opportunity that opened following MillerCoors’ decision.  After all, people love uppers while partying, be it booze and sugar, Red Bull and vodka, cocaine, snorting adderall or taking other pills.  With the pre-mixed caffeinated booze market wide open, Four came along and put a 24oz can that was 12% ABV on the market.

Perhaps inadvertently, the byproduct of banning one beverage forced the market to be dominated by something much worse (I’m talking taste as much as potency).  Putting back one can of Four Loko is the alcohol equivalent to drinking 5 cans of PBR (a 16oz Sparks, by comparison, only contained 1.98 cans of PBR).  Was this the direction that Dennis Herrera really wanted the alcohol industry to head in?  Probably not.

Now with ‘FOUR LOKO NAZI PEDOPHILE RAPE JUICE’ available “practically everywhere,” the media, predictably, got hysterical.  Even the quasi-hipster blog Mission Mission got into the mix, slamming the drink for being “marketed to kids.”  Some of the same groups that pushed to ban Sparks are pushing to ban Four Loko.  And to make the media sensationalism worse, some amateurs recently managed to get totally shitfaced and now the pattern repeats itself with the Washington Attorney General calling for a ban.

What’s the endgame?  Ban Four Loko?  They claim that the beverages are marketed to children because of their fruity flavors, but do not oppose “hard lemonade” or wine coolers.  Why not just force companies to make the packaging abundantly clear that it contains alcohol?  After all, It seems that taking down one brand only seems to leave “more dangerous” drinks in its place (in fact, the whole thing reads like the plot to Batman: he (Herrera) set out to take down petty crime (Sparks) and ended up creating The Joker (Four Loko)).  Plus, criminalizing an entire class of beverage sure does sound tricky. Hell, if we learned anything from prohibition or criminalizing weed, we can make it illegal for someone to put something in their body, but that won’t stop them from doing it.  There’s a reason people started making Sparks at home after it was banned.

You just can’t fix stupid…

Dennis Herrea for Mayor!