Wine ice cream gets cold shoulder

Lobbyists representing an alcohol-infused ice cream maker brought sweet treats Thursday to the State Capitol.

Legislators looked curiously at the BuzzBars, but they still raised concerns about making them legal in Louisiana.

For a second time this session, House Bill 471 ran into problems in the House Judiciary Committee.

“Part of me’s saying there’s much ado about nothing. But another part of me, when I see on the label ‘BuzzBar,’ that kind of gives me some concern,” state Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, said.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Marcus Hunter, said he will take another crack at fixing the legislation.

HB471 would allow vendors to sell alcohol-infused ice cream in Louisiana. The state Attorney General’s Office shot down a request by Mercer’s Dairy, of New York, last year to sell cherry merlot, peach white zinfandel, red raspberry chardonnay and other alcohol-laced ice cream flavors in Louisiana.

The Attorney General’s Office determined the law would have to be changed before the frozen treats could hit grocers’ freezers.

The ice cream with alcohol content ranging from 0.65 percent to 2.81 percent for the BuzzBars is an adulterated food that needs an exemption in state law. Similar exemptions were given for boozy bonbons and fruitcake. HB471 would extend the exemption to alcohol-infused ice cream.

Previously, committee members raised concerns about minors being able to buy the ice cream. BuzzBar makes ice cream bars infused with whiskey, Irish cream liqueur, lemon vodka, bourbon, rum and cognac.

Hunter, D-Monroe, offered to create penalties for anyone who sells the ice cream to minors. The ice cream also would be sold with a label reading “Sale of this product to persons under the legal age for purchasing alcoholic beverages is unlawful.”

Some committee members still had problems with the legislation.

State Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Meraux, said the amendment would not resolve his concerns. He wanted to know who is going to monitor the age verification.

Steve Duke, a lobbyist for the BuzzBar, with headquarters in California, said the ice cream would be treated like booze-filled chocolates and rum cakes. He said any law enforcement agency in the state could enforce it.

“I guess my concern is: ‘Is this enough?’ You’re representing the seller, so of course you’re going to think it is,” Garofalo told Duke.

Duke said the bars range from $5 to $9 in price and contain little alcohol. He said a child with a fake ID and $10 in his pocket isn’t going to blow the money on a BuzzBar.

“You don’t taste it. This is a low-alcohol product,” he said.

Garofalo continued to point out problems, saying the ice cream would not be restricted to outlets with licenses from the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. Instead, he said, small operations that do not think to ask for an ID would be able to sell it.

“Kids are going to want to try it,” he said.

Duke said he sampled a Bourbon St. Chocolate, containing chocolate ice cream and whiskey, and did not get a buzz from it. He said the ice cream just made him feel sluggish the next day because of the sugar content.

Still, legislators continued to raise concerns.

State Rep. Sherman Q. Mack, R-Albany, said Louisiana has an open-container law prohibiting motorists from driving with unsealed alcohol in their cars. He questioned how law enforcement would regulate someone licking a BuzzBar as he drives down the road.

Hunter initially tried to press forward with the legislation, but he soon changed his mind.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, wanted to know if BuzzBars would be loaded onto ice cream trucks that tootled through neighborhoods during the summertime.

“On a hot Saturday afternoon when you hear the ice cream truck coming down the street, are we going to be selling ice cream to the kids and these bars to the adults?” he asked.

“I will voluntarily defer to get perfect legislation,” he said, meaning he will try to address concerns and bring up the bill again.