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State to Review Sales of Four Loko

FourLoko_cansChelsia Rose Marcius The banned drink was on sale last week.

As we told you last week, The Local found five East Village establishments selling the caffeinated version of Four Loko, the alcoholic beverage banned last year after the New York State Liquor Authority and in-state distributors agreed to stop selling the product.

Officials with the authority said today that they plan to look into the continued sale and distribution of the beverage.

“We’ll have to investigate how this product is still on the shelves,” said William Crowley, a spokesman for the authority. “If someone is selling that stuff illegally, it’s something we’re going to look into.”

Mr. Crowley said that investigation could include examining inventory records to determine where businesses are getting the drink. He said that Four Loko is a small part of distributor inventory, and for wholesalers to continue selling the product to retailers and “take a risk like that would be surprising.”

Store owners found selling the drink face fines ranging from $1,500 to $2,000 and other penalties, including the revocation of their liquor licenses.

Steve Harris, president of the New York State Beer Wholesalers Association, said it is highly unlikely — but not impossible — that retailers are getting the drink from New York distributors who are not a part of the association.

He noted that area businesses could also be “getting it illegally from New Jersey wholesalers or retailers,” or other out-of-state distributors.

“I can tell you unequivocally that none of my members sell the stimulant stuff anymore,” said Mr. Harris, whose group is made up of 44 distributors. “But there is another group of wholesalers that could still have it.”

Banned Version of Four Loko Still Sold

FourLoko_cansChelsia Rose Marcius An image of a store shelf at the Houston Village Farm on the corner of First Avenue and Fourth Street featuring the banned version of the caffeinated alcoholic beverage Four Loko.

Along the left-side wall of a bodega on Avenue B stands a row of glass door refrigerators, stocked with an assortment of alcoholic beverages from bottles of Budweiser to cans of Coors Light.

Three shelves down in the first fridge, there’s also another beer-like brew — Four Loko, the caffeinated alcoholic beverage that created a buzz before it was banned last year in several states, including New York.

The manager of this minimart — who spoke only on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job — said he knows it’s “illegal” to sell this version of the drink, an alcohol and caffeine combo that was manufactured by Phusion Projects last year before the company reformulated the product to eliminate caffeine. Yet more than seven months after the December 2010 ban took effect, several East Village establishments continue to sell the old Four Loko, a top selling brand name that brings some small businesses big bucks.

The Local visited 39 East Village establishments along Broadway, Third Avenue, Second Avenue, First Avenue, Avenue A, Avenue B, Avenue C and Avenue D. Of these, 26 sold the new, non-caffeinated Four Loko.

However, five stores — Le Basket, 683 Broadway; Houston Village Farm, 61 First Avenue; 1st Ave Village Farm & Grocery, 113 First Avenue; Village Magazine, Cigar & Gourmet Food, 102 Second Avenue; and 21 Produce Corp., 21 Avenue B. — were still selling the banned product, as of Thursday.
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