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Four Loko Goes Caffeine-Free After New York State Ban

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Photo: jameskm03/Flickr

New Yorkers have around another month to get drunk on the "blackout in a can" Four Loko. According to the New York Daily News, "The State Liquor Authority has pressured the state's biggest beer distributors to stop delivering Four Loko and other caffeinated alcoholic cocktails to New York retailers by Dec.10." In addition, Phusion Projects, the makers of Four Loko, has agreed to stop shipping the drink to New York distributors after November 19th. As an extra bonus, any store caught selling Four Loko without proof it was ordered before the deadline risks heavy fines. Keep your receipts handy, store owners, before the SLA's goon squad comes after you.

New York State Senator Charles Schumer wanted a ban on all caffeinated alcoholic drinks; he described them as "a toxic and dangerous brew" that needed the be taken off the market to "protect children from the severe and deadly consequences." Over the weekend, the SLA even sent the NYPD to confiscate and destroy all the Four Loko — a perfectly legal product, mind you — from Eddie Huang's New York City restaurant Xiao Ye. The strong arm of the law! Well, except there's no law about that.

A can of Four Loko is basically the equivalent of three cans of beer and two small cups of coffee. Some might call this a nanny state run amock! Or some might call it a knee-jerk reaction to people behaving badly (sometimes very badly) after consuming a simple combination of alcohol and caffeine.

So in a way, Phusion Projects totally caved to the aggressive and ostensibly illegal maneuvering by the SLA. Guess you have to pick your battles, and this is one the company knew they couldn't win. Said Phusion co-founder Jaisen Freeman in a statement, "We still believe that combining caffeine and alcohol is safe – if that weren't the case, Irish coffees and rum and colas would be under scrutiny as well... But we want our company to be known for cooperation and collaboration, not controversy."

At the same time, one couldn't buy better press for their products than regular reports of hallucinogenic frenzies or state-by-state bans.

But tucked into their press release about acquiescing to New York State's demands, Phusion explained the details of their agreement: "Phusion will instead begin selling only non-caffeinated versions of its products." Which, after all the media buzz, will probably sell just as well whether or not it has caffeine. So we can expect a special caffeine-free version for the states and municipalities that have banned it.

Also: "Phusion reserves the right to apply to resume the sale and distribution of caffeinated alcoholic beverages, including Four Loko, in the state of New York if emerging science, regulatory developments or other relevant changes in circumstances arise. The same applies if other alcoholic beverage companies are allowed to distribute and sell caffeinated alcoholic beverages in New York." So basically: if the FDA says it's safe, they'll try to sell caffeinated Four Loko again. If any other company gets the okay to sell caffeinated alcoholic beverages in New York State, they'll try to sell it again.

Hopefully Phusion will get their non-caffeinated Four Loko on the market soon to satisfy their thirsty customers.

· Beer distributors, Four Loko manufacturer, will halt shipping of caffeinated, alcoholic drink to NY [NYDN]
· Phusion Projects, New York State Liquor Authority Reach Agreement [Phusion]
· All Four Loko Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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