Listen to the audio of the ABC meeting
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — “Bud Light” Amphitheater in downtown Raleigh? Not on our watch, said the state ABC Commission on Thursday, refusing to open the door to the practice of naming public buildings after alcoholic drinks.
“We commend the ABC Commission’s decision not to allow Raleigh to circumvent state law, a move that would have set a terrible precedent” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, one of seven speakers to address the two-member commission prior to the vote. All encouraged the commission to stay the course and not to grant an exemption.
City officials, who had agreed to pursue a $1.5 million deal with Anheuser-Busch ($300,000 annually for five years), said last month the money was needed to cover some 75 percent of construction costs of the 5,000-seat facility that opened June 4.
But ABC Chairman Jon Williams said the alcohol industry is highly competitive and “the dynamics of opening up this kind of competition in the advertising field would be difficult to contain.” He also said that e-mail responses received on the ABC Commission Web site were overwhelmingly opposed to the Bud Light name.
In addition to the law against alcohol names for public venues, Williams said the Commission also had to consider a number of related regulatory requirements — from those regarding government endorsement of an alcohol product to rules about links between wholesalers and retailers.
Rev. Creech and other speakers, including three high school students representing Youth Empowerment Solutions, were most concerned about the links between alcohol ads and underage drinking — a problem that already costs North Carolina more than $1.4 billion a year.
“The research is clear and convincing that teenagers — our children — are influenced by alcohol advertising to drink alcohol,” said Ron Bogle, a retired Superior Court judge who now works with the Coalition for Alcohol and Drug Free Teenagers. “Many teens will be patrons of this facility and by their presence will be continuously exposed to the consumption messaging associated with the branding product name.”
Similarly, Phil Mooring with the N.C. Substance Abuse Prevention Providers Association said public venues should not be used as “billboards to promote alcohol.”
Citing reports from Washington, D.C.-based Commercial Alert, Creech said “merchant pushers enlist the best psychologists and market researchers money can buy to lure young people to values and products many parents don’t approve of or even abhor.”
“One study concluded that youth are drawn to music, animal and people characters, stories and humor in alcohol advertising,” he said. “Though the advertising might not be direct, there is a sense in which all of these are employed when any or one are hosted by what would be Raleigh’s Bud Light Amphitheater.”
Creech further suggested that the Commission consider the wisdom of those who made the rules in the first place.
“Someone once said, before you take up a fence, make sure you understand why it was put there,” he said. “Those who went before you in alcohol control may not have seen the specifics of the proposal being considered today, but they foresaw this day would come. They knew there would come a day when the public’s health would need to be jealously guarded by the current rule; that there would come a day when this rule would be the only thing standing between alcohol marketers with their weapons of mass seduction and the parents’ right to protect their child.”
With the Bud Light name canned, Raleigh officials will begin again their search for a naming sponsor.
“This is a very attractive venue that has great appeal to other potential sponsors,” Mayor Charles Meeker said via a press release. “The City is actively pursuing other name and title opportunities to defray the costs of operating this facility.”
Listen to the audio of the ABC Meeting by clicking here