High-proof liquor ban in the works for state

Peshtigo tavern owner charged with refilling liquor bottles

High-proof liquor ban in the works for state

Of the dozens of liquors lining the wall at Regent Street Liquor, only two are what some may call “blackout in a bottle.”

Manager Jennifer Cook said the sales for Everclear and other brands of high-proof alcohol don’t come close to the other less intense liquors.

“Tastes like gasoline. It’s pretty horrible,” Cook said.

She said they usually ring up about a case or two a week, and a couple bottles weekly during the summer.

“There is a warning label on there to mix it with something and don’t drink it alone,” state Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, said.

Not everyone comes in to drink it. Cook said some seek it out to fuel their camping lanterns or clean jewelry, but those who do want to toss it back are some of her younger customers.

That’s exactly who Berceau is worried about.

“It is solely for getting really stupidly drunk,” Berceau said.

Bereau is reintroducing a bill that would ban the sale of alcohol higher than 160 proof. She said initially, the bill made it a felony to distribute such liquor, but she’s working with another representative to make the offense worth a fine. As a result, she has pulled the bill from committee until those revisions are complete.

“We don’t want to touch the issue of alcohol abuse in Wisconsin, no matter how difficult it is, no matter how many people die, no matter how much it costs. It’s the Holy Grail. We don’t go there,” Berceau said. “And I’m talking both sides of the political fence.”

Berceau said 15 other states already have such bans in place.

“It’s just that there really isn’t any good reason, and it’s dangerous,” Berceau said. “People can die.”

While some may wonder if young drinkers will simply buy more booze to get to the same level of intoxication, Berceau said she doesn’t see how that is physically possible.

“You’d have to drink an awful lot of beer before you got up to that 95 percent alcohol that’s in Everclear,” Berceau said.

Berceau hasn’t heard any outward opposition yet. She was moved to pursue the legislation after a mother outside of Milwaukee said her son drowned after consuming Gatorade, Red Bull and Everclear.

She said it is hard to directly link a death or hospitalization to a particular type of liquor, but she will continue to research the issue as the bill moves its way through the legislature.

Berceau said along with the high level of intoxication, the drunkenness could result in sexual assault and death. She said as long as these bottles are on the shelves of liquor stores, students will buy them.

“I would say that if you’re a college student and you can get really drunk, really fast on one drink of Everclear versus buying all of these bottles, that that seems to make sense to you,” Berceau said.