By mid-October, College Park liquor stores had sold out of their exclusive 77-packs of Natural Light — and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot would like it to stay that way.
Last week, Franchot spoke out against the supersized silver, red and blue keg-shaped containers that were introduced and distributed for a limited time in College Park in early October.
Natural Light, which is produced by the Anheuser-Busch brewing company, released the packs as a tribute to 1977, the year the brand was created.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, as a nod to the year of our creation, 1977, we give you………………….the 77 pack. Limited time only in College Park, MD. pic.twitter.com/jm19DHVmoG
— Natural Light (@naturallight) October 5, 2018
Franchot, the state’s chief alcohol regulator, said the pack “takes advantage of young or even underage drinkers to sell cheap beer in large quantities” and criticized the decision to distribute it so close to the University of Maryland.
“The 77-pack is a clear indication to young people to get drunk on cheap beer,” he said. “And it’s really unfortunate that [Anheuser-Busch] chose to market in a discriminatory way, just College Park.”
When asked if he thought the 77-packs would encourage binge drinking, Franchot replied, “How could it not?”
Danielle Ocampo, a senior psychology major, agreed with Franchot’s appraisal. She said there’s already a campus culture of drinking and partying, which she doesn’t think would change if the 77-packs were removed.
“I mean, you’re buying 77 beers all at once,” Ocampo said.
When the pack was introduced in the first week of October, inventory sold out rapidly. Eric Best, a general manager for an Upper Marlboro-based beer distributor, told The Baltimore Sun that the beer was “selling out as our guys were delivering it off the trucks.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving questioned the location of the packs’ release. While MADD does not usually take a position on alcohol sales, it does work to combat underage drinking by educating kids and parents about its risks.
“What raises eyebrows and concerns in this situation is the fact that the only place that Anheuser-Busch is selling this beer is in College Park, Maryland,” said J.T. Griffin, MADD’s chief government affairs officer. “Obviously, if you’re doing that, it’s targeted at the college crowd, which by and large is underage and is not old enough to drink.”
Leila Riazi, a sophomore government and politics major, also felt the oversize beer packs would lead to binge drinking.
“It’s not just that they’re selling more beers, they’re making a big deal out of it — kind of sensationalizing it,” she said. “A lot of people were very eager to buy it. … It wasn’t just, like, the normal trend.”
Franchot is a supporter of Maryland craft breweries, which he’s praised as “a very vibrant sector of family-owned businesses.”
He submitted legislation to the Maryland General Assembly this year aimed to “[remove] all limits on beer production, taproom sales and take-home sales,” and “[lift] unnecessary restrictions for take-home sales,” according to the comptroller website.
The bill, called the Reform on Tap Act of 2018, received an unfavorable report from the House Economic Matters Committee, according to the Maryland General Assembly website.
“Hopefully, this year the legislature can do the right thing,” Franchot said.