Free brew may not fly in Illinois

2010-09-29T00:00:00Z Free brew may not fly in IllinoisBy Kurt Erickson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
September 29, 2010 12:00 am  • 

SPRINGFIELD | A national promotion aimed at luring beer drinkers back to Anheuser-Busch's flagship brand may fall flat in Illinois.

The company is set to offer free Budweiser samples to customers of bars and restaurants today as part of a "national happy hour" campaign.

In Illinois, however, a number of state laws appear to prohibit such a plan.

"We have some serious problems with A-B's promotion," said Sue Hofer, spokeswoman for the Illinois Liquor Control Commission.

A company spokesman acknowledged that state laws could play a role in how the giveaway unfolds.

"Sampling and promotional activity varies market by market according to state alcohol beverage laws," said Michael Lourie, Anheuser-Busch's director of corporate communications.

Rick Haymaker, general counsel for the liquor control panel, says not only is giving away free booze prohibited under Illinois' regulations, but advertising alcohol giveaways is barred too.

"That, in and of itself, would be a violation," Haymaker said.

Indiana law also prohibits giveaways of alcohol in bars and restaurants. Facilities that violate the provision can be declared public nuisances and shut down for one year.

There is a provision in Illinois law allowing companies to give away a total of three free samples, but each of those must be limited to 2 ounces each.

What if the bars combined those samples to make one, 6-ounce freebie?

"We would disagree with that," Haymaker said.

With time ticking down on the Budweiser promotion, Illinois officials have reached out to Anheuser-Busch to discuss the company's plans. As of Monday, Haymaker said he had not heard a response.

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