Today's new and improved stupid regulatory trick hails from Connecticut. It appears that state booze regulators in "The Constitution State" have taken a dislike to a certain seasonal farmhouse ale called "Seriously Bad Elf," imported from England by Shelton Brothers of the delightfully appropriate village of Belchertown, Mass.
At a whopping 18 proof, Seriously Bad Elf is the big brother of two other Ridgeway Bad Elf brews, and this case is going to require a lot of SBE to get through. It appears that Connecticut regulators have an issue with SBE's label, which depicts a somewhat evil looking elf taking aim at Santa's sleigh with a slingshot. Why is this stupid picture a problem? Well, because it might promote underage drinking, that's why. The regulator's thinking must be that every youngster who sees Santa Clause getting his ass shot off by a drunken elf will want to be just like that drunken elf. Consequently, a nine year-old boy will promptly buy that particular brand of beer and then guzzle it down before drunkenly wrapping his big wheel around Mom's prize rose bush. Or, at least, so it would seem.
"There are certain symbols and images that appeal more strongly to children and this regulation includes the most obvious among them," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. "The state has wide discretion to regulate the sales of alcohol."AS stupid as that statement appears, don't start laughing yet. It gets better.
Of course, Bad Frog Beer had other image problems as well; notably (1) it tasted awful, and (2) the frog was flipping you off.
Shelton [Brothers] has enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut and demanded a hearing before the Liquor Control Commission.
At that hearing this week, ACLU attorney Annette Lamoreaux argued that the regulation has serious constitutional flaws.
Not only does it violate Shelton's free speech rights, she said, but protecting Santa Claus is a violation of the Constitution's establishment clause, which prohibits government endorsement or disapproval of religion.
She also cited a decision in another beer-label case, Bad Frog vs. New York. A court ruled that the potential for an image to attract a child is not reason enough to ban it from a beer bottle because there are already laws against selling beer to children.
So here we go, folks. Its stupid beer names and the First Amendment versus stupid regulators and the Twenty-first Amendment in a constitutional tag-team battle royale.
Hand me the opener. It's a booze lawyer's dream.
UPDATE: Everybody wants to get into the act.