Wine ice cream bill advances

Mercer's Fine Ice Cream has wine flavored ice cream.
Mercer's Fine Ice Cream has wine flavored ice cream.

The third time really was the charm, at least for legislation authorizing the sale of alcohol-infused ice cream in Louisiana.

House Bill 471 still has a long way to go before reaching Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk. However, it cleared its first hurdle Thursday, advancing from the House Judiciary Committee after two prior aborted attempts.

The trick was requiring state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Troy Hebert to police the frozen treat, keeping it out of jingly ice cream trucks that make the rounds on hot summer days.

“I got what I wanted. I think they got what they wanted,” state Rep. Marcus Hunter said later in the day on what it took to free the bill from committee.

Hunter, D-Monroe, sponsored HB471.

State law needs to be tweaked to allow the specialty ice cream to be sold in Louisiana.

The ice cream — much like boozy bonbons and fruitcake — is an adulterated food. Adulterated foods generally are prohibited. Exemptions exist in state law for bonbons and fruitcake, allowing them to be sold.

Members of the Louisiana House Judiciary Committee began raising concerns as soon as HB471 hit the agenda. Lobbyists representing Buzz Bar, of California, brought samples, allowing legislators to bite into ice cream bars infused with whiskey, Irish cream liqueur, lemon vodka, bourbon, rum and cognac.

The concerns remained.

The biggest fear was that minors would get their hands on a frozen concoction that actually is aimed at adults.

The alcohol content on Buzz Bar’s ice cream ranges from 0.65 percent for its coffee ice cream to 2.81 percent for Blitzed Berry strawberry ice cream infused with rum. Wine tends to have 12 to 15 percent alcohol content. Beer ranges from 3.5 percent to 9 percent, depending on its lightness.

The concerns twice derailed the bill. Hunter was back before the committee Thursday, taking what he called his triple dip at the bill.

“I scream. You scream,” joked state Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans and the committee’s chairman.

Two pages of amendments were read into the record and quickly adopted. With that, the bill was on its way to the House floor without debate, a sharp contrast to the pointed questions at past meetings.

The amendments require a licensed alcohol retailer to sell the ice cream. It could be sold in grocery stores, restaurants and convenience stores as long as alcohol can be sold on the premises.

Customers would be carded, just like they would be if they bought a six-pack of beer.

Hunter said that was essentially what he was trying to do anyway.

“Something got lost in the translation,” he said of the bill’s past struggles.