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 e - NEWS

September 12, 2003


1.   RTDs R.I.P.

2.   US:  Diageo Launches New Look Smirnoff

3.   Liquor Ads to Take A Narrower Focus

4.   Alcohol Back in Congress' Sights

5.   US.  Vodka Ad Battle Heats Up

6.   Spirits Firms Pour on TV Ad Spending

7.   Recently Lowered Blood-alcohol Level Hasn't Resulted in Increase of Arrests

8.   Insurers Lose Appetite for Junk Food and Alcohol

9.   FTC Report Cites Improvements in Alcohol Industry Self-Regulation

10. Study On Underage Drinking Suggests Alcohol Tax           

11. Bar Business Drops with More Arrests


1. RTDs R.I.P.

Source: Beernet Online

September 9, 2003


Diageo’s malternative volume in the US and Canada was down 17%, representing a decline in Smirnoff Ice and the removal of Captain Morgan Gold from the scene. Black Ice is picking up some of the slack, but not enough to put SI in positive territory


2. US:  Diageo Launches New Look Smirnoff

Source:  Chris Brook-Carter

September 8, 2003


click for larger view

click image to enlarge

Diageo has unveiled a major overhaul for its flagship vodka brand Smirnoff, which includes a packaging redesign and a major ad campaign.


The company will launch the new packaging in the US this month, where it will be backed by 50% increase on its marketing budget of US$157m last year.


A global roll out will follow early next year with a significant increase in the $250m global spend.


Andy Fennell, president of global marketing for Smirnoff, said: "We updated our look to make a bold, contemporary statement about our category leadership and quality product."


The redesign begins with the relaunch of Smirnoff Red but will eventually be rolled out across the Smirnoff product range, including the RTD brands Smirnoff Ice and Smirnoff Black Ice.


As well as the new advertising campaign, the relaunch will be backed by on- and off-trade activities, a PR campaign and the Smirnoff Experience, the series of dance events the brand sponsors globally.


The TV and print ad campaign will begin in the US in October. Called "Neat", it depicts the Smirnoff bottle with an olive twist and a shot glass, encouraging consumers to drink it neat.






3. Liquor Ads to Take A Narrower Focus

By John R. Wilke Staff Reporter - The Wall Street Journal

September 9, 2003


Alcohol Makers' Aim Is to Pare Audience To Below 30% Underage, From Current 50%


WASHINGTON -- Pushed by federal regulators, beer, wine and liquor makers are expected to announce Tuesday that they will narrow their target advertising audience in an effort to reach fewer underage drinkers.


The new advertising standard, which the nation's three largest brewers already are following, comes as the Federal Trade Commission completes an investigation into industry advertising. The FTC long has encouraged alcohol advertisers to narrow their target audience, using only print and broadcast media whose readership or viewership is less than 30% underage. The current standard is 50%.


The voluntary change means that some magazines and television programs whose audiences exceed the new 30% underage-audience mark will no longer be able to sell ads to beer, wine or liquor makers.  Industry executives said Monday, however, that the practical effect in the ad industry will be small because major companies already follow the standard.


The FTC investigation, which is to be reported to Congress Tuesday, found that the industry's voluntary code generally has been effective in avoiding underage viewers and that it is doing a better job in avoiding ad content that appeals to underage drinkers. Beyond advertising, it will encourage the industry to pay more attention to restricting access to alcohol in retail and noncommercial venues such as home and school.


The new advertising standards and the FTC investigation come just ahead of a major report on underage drinking by the National Academy of Sciences. That study, scheduled to be made public Wednesday, is expected to call for even narrower youth-audience guidelines, wider restrictions on youth access to alcohol and increased public-health advertising targeting parents and other adults who are in a position to influence youth drinking.


The National Academy study's greatest impact, though, could be in tax policy. The study's most contentious finding is likely to be its support for higher excise taxes as an effective means of curbing underage drinking. Cash-strapped states around the country have debated raising excise taxes, and while most have not done so -- often after intense industry lobbying -- the new federal research will fuel those debates.


The FTC investigation looked especially closely at new flavored malt beverages heavily marketed to younger drinkers. But the FTC found no effort to target underage drinkers, and widespread compliance with the current 50% youth-audience ad guidelines. Nevertheless, "the 50% placement standard . . . permitted the ads to reach a substantial youth audience," a summary of the report says. "This is particularly significant where the products and some ad themes may be attractive to minors."


The FTC also noted that while it is probable that some teens are drinking the malt beverages, "teen drinking continued to decline during the period when those beverages were being aggressively marketed."


The FTC investigators found greater attention by the industry to the issue of advertising content. Company documents showed "many examples of ad content being rejected, and ad content being modified, to reduce the likelihood of appeal to minors," the FTC found. It noted, however, that a "visible minority" of ads "feature concepts that risk appealing to those under 21." Unless greater care is taken, ads targeting young drinkers risk also appealing to those under 21, the FTC warns.


The FTC isn't expected to recommend any advertising-content restrictions, however, because of constitutional free-speech protections.


Public-health advocates welcomed the narrower target advertising targets. "It's a small step forward, but it doesn't go far enough," said George Hacker, director of alcohol policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest here.


Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute trade group, said that brewers comply with the industry's advertising code "not only to accommodate regulatory agencies, but to make sure that there is no misperception about the focus of our members' advertising, which is to adults of legal drinking age." He said the new revision to the code "reflect current best practices among brewers, and some were made in response to FTC suggestions over the last several years."





4. Alcohol Back in Congress' Sights

September 8, 2003


Two alcohol-marketing studies expected to be released this week may call for ad restrictions and tax increases, sources said. At the same time, the beer and liquor industries plan to reveal changes in their codes to comply with one of the recommendations, according to sources.


The Federal Trade Commission is expected to release a report tomorrow that asks beer, wine and liquor marketers to adopt guidelines that would restrict advertising to media where 70 percent of the audience is 21 or older, sources said. The beer and liquor industries are expected to comply; the wine industry's code already adheres to that guideline.


The Beer Institute, the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. and the FTC all declined comment.


Urban radio stations are likely to be hit hardest by the FTC's recommendation, sources said. "The 70 percent number will probably remove a fair number of ad placements," said one source.


The National Academy of Sciences (news - web sites) will likely release its report Wednesday, with recommendations that may include a call for higher taxes and a national media campaign to combat underage drinking.


"We are concerned that the upcoming [NAS] report ... will not reflect the hundreds of programs that the industry sponsors to fight underage drinking," said Michelle Semones, a rep with the National Beer Wholesalers Association.


Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who was among the lawmakers calling for both reports, could use the studies as a basis for hearings on the issue, sources said.


The FTC last issued a report on alcoholic-beverage ads to Congress in 1999.

5. US.  Vodka Ad Battle Heats Up

Source: just-drinks.com editorial team

September 10, 2003


The US drinks importer, Millennium Import Company, which imports the Belvedere and Chopin vodka brands, has filed a federal lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota against Sidney Frank Importing Co. Inc., over the company's advertising for its vodka brand, Grey Goose.


Millennium is accusing Sidney Frank Importing of false advertising, consumer fraud, and trade libel.


Millennium has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against Sidney Frank to enjoin Sidney Frank's further use of its current advertising campaign claiming to be the best tasting vodka in the world.


The case follows Millennium's complaint over Sidney Frank's advertising to the National Advertising Division (NAD). The NAD ruled in Millennium's favour and Sidney Frank appealed to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) which upheld the NAD's decision, saying that Sidney Frank's advertisements for Grey Goose are "inaccurate and misleading".


The NAD and NARB are self-regulatory arms of the Council of Better Business Bureaus and are said to be widely regarded as leaders in the field of self-regulation with a compliance rate of nearly 100%. But so far Sidney Frank has refused to comply with the NAD's and NARB's directive to discontinue or modify their advertising for Grey Goose.


"The entire industry and consumers have been misled by Grey Goose's deceptive and misleading advertising campaign," said Millennium's president, Steve Gill. "It's a shame that Sidney Frank insists on continuing their game of deception. Two well respected organisations have now found their Grey Goose ads to be misleading and we're looking forward to our day in court and to having the TTB and FTC enforce the NARB and NAD's rulings."


Millennium's dispute Sidney Frank is not its claim that it is the leading tasting vodka in the world but that in the list of comparisons made in the advertising Belvedere comes out so badly.


Grey Goose's claims come from a 1998 taste test conducted by the Beverage Testing Institute (BTI), in which the vodka was the winning brand scoring 96. Grey Goose's advertising not only uses this fact but also lists scores of 31 competing vodkas that include a score of 74 for Belvedere Vodka.


The problem with this for Belvedere is that in similar tests that have been conducted since 1998, Belvedere has scored significantly better, including a 91 and a 92.





6. Spirits Firms Pour on TV Ad Spending

By Theresa Howard, USA Today

September 8, 2003


NEW YORK — Spirits marketers are stepping up their TV ad spending to better battle brewers for a share of the alcoholic beverage market.


A Finlandia ad shows people at a rooftop party with an ice-sculpted bar and a waterfall.



Spending for spirits brands is expected to double to $20 million this year over 2002. Though that remains a fraction of the $1.6 billion beer companies spent on ads in 2002, spirits marketers are regrouping for another run at TV because they think the time is right to steal market share from beermakers, who have 85% of the volume of alcoholic beverages, says market researcher Impact's U.S. Wine & Spirits Study.


"Beer is down this year, so spirits are winning competitively vs. beer right now, and that had not been the case for decades," says Benj Steinman, editor of newsletter Beer Marketer's Insights.


Under a voluntary agreement from the early days of television, the industry has not used network TV to market. And while there is a belief that the deal is outmoded, the brands are cobbling together a national media presence with ads bought on cable and local stations. They want to avoid the kind of public outcry that met an ill-fated attempt to get on network TV 18 months ago, which ended with NBC pulling the plug on a deal to run ads from spirits giant Diageo.


But better cable programming options and flat prices have made non-network TV a more viable option. And the revenue potential is enticing network affiliate stations and cable to take on spirits ads.


"The choice available to marketers is really endless," says Monsell Darville, vice president and group marketing director at Bacardi USA, which has doubled its TV budget for three key brands this year. "Cable programming provides a wonderful opportunity for us to target a special audience with very little waste."


Bellying up to TV:


Allied Domecq. The company that owns and markets Beefeater, Canadian Club, Kahlúa and Courvoisier doubled its TV ad budget for the key fourth quarter. "It's such an important season for us," says Janet Oak, vice president of strategic planning and media. Oak says the ads are directed to distributors as much as to consumers because distributors are more likely to give products better placement if they are heavily promoted.


Bacardi. For the first time in three years, Bacardi Rum and sister brand Disaronno have ads on TV. They join Bombay Sapphire, which begins a second round of 60-second ads as part of its $2.5 million TV campaign. Disaronno, with a $5.5 million TV ad budget vs. nothing last year, had a home run with an ad buy that includes Bravo's surprise hit Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. "We're talking to an audience that fits our consumers," says Darville. "It's not a shotgun approach."


Brown-Forman. An up to $5 million TV ad campaign will back the rollout of a revamped bottle for Finlandia, in stores on Sept. 30. The redesign is a move to better compete against the premium import vodka leader, Absolut.


"The vodka category is driven by image, and TV is a very big driver of imagery," says Scott Reid, vice president and global creative director. "For creating a personality for a brand, TV is the most effective medium."


Diageo. Smirnoff's $157 million rollout of a new bottle design next month includes a $10 million TV ad campaign beginning on Oct. 20. The ads try to evoke a more premium feel for the world's top-selling vodka, and Diageo has increased its cable presence this year to 42 networks from 10.







7.  Recently Lowered Blood-alcohol Level Hasn't Resulted in Increase of Arrests

By Jolene Hull – Iowa State Daily

September 09, 2003

AMES - Although the legal blood alcohol concentration level limit for driving was lowered in July, local law enforcement officials said they've seen minimal changes in the number of operating while intoxicated charges issued.


Gov. Tom Vilsack signed into law House File 65 on July 1. The law lowered the allowable blood alcohol concentration limit for operating a motor vehicle from .10 to .08.


In order to reach .08 blood alcohol content, a 170-pound male would have to consume four to five drinks in one hour on an empty stomach and a 130-pound female would have to consume three to four drinks.


Passage of the new .08 law means Iowa is now eligible to receive $45.6 million in federal road money between 2004 and 2007. Iowa could receive up to $2.4 million in federal incentive grants for passing the legislation.


ISU Police Capt. Gene Deisinger said he's seen no change in the number of OWI charges issued that he would link to the enactment of the new law.


"Off-hand, I've not seen any significant difference that I would attribute directly to the .08 law," he said. "Historically, the average blood alcohol content for OWIs in our department is well over .10."


Deisinger said his department has recently seen an increase in OWIs.


"We've seen an increase in OWIs in the past month, but I would attribute that to the changes in our community," he said. "There are more people around, and therefore, there will be an increase in alcohol-related arrests."


Deisinger said many of the alcohol violations can be attributed to underage possession charges, in which a blood alcohol measure is not taken.


Deisinger said he hopes people will be mindful of the changed law.


"I would expect and hope that it causes more people to give careful consideration to their drinking choices," he said.


Ames Police Patrol Cmdr. Randy Kessel also said he hasn't seen any changes in the Ames Police Department's arrest rate for OWIs since the legal limit was lowered. He said most of those arrested for OWIs by the Ames Police Department have a blood alcohol content of .13 or more.


Kessel said he's seen an increase in designated drivers since the change.


"I've talked to more people who say their spouses or friends are driving," he said. "The education is certainly getting to the public."


Kessel said he believes the recently enacted law has increased public awareness of the consequences of drinking and driving.


"I think it has enhanced the drinking responsibility," he said. "The lowering is making an impact in some people's minds."


Lt. John Evans of the Story County Sheriff's Office said his department also has not seen any changes since the legal blood alcohol limit was lowered. He said the blood alcohol level the sheriff's office usually sees exceeds .10.


Evans said he believes people are aware they need to be more responsible when drinking.


"I think people are very much more aware [of the lowered limit]," he said. "It's just a matter of following through with that awareness."


Evans said it's easy for one to neglect the law while drinking.


"I would advise people to use extreme caution, because [a rising blood alcohol level] sneaks up on them," he said. "They're having a good time, and they can be over the legal limit when they have no idea they are."


"People need to have a designated driver or not be in the situation at all," he said.







8.  Insurers Lose Appetite for Junk Food and Alcohol
By Yvette Essen  - Money.Telegraph

September 1, 2003


Restaurants, fast-food chains, bars and pubs are facing further insurance premium rises as customers make claims for obesity and alcohol and smoking-related diseases.


Public liability insurance, which covers companies against claims from members of the public, has already climbed by around 30pc to 35pc over the past year. The food and drink industry has traditionally been regarded as low risk by insurers, with the majority of claims being linked to contamination.


However, following a number of high profile cases, insurers fear the sector will face more claims. In June, class-action lawyer John Banzhaf wrote to fast-food restaurants, including McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut, telling them to warn customers scientific studies show fast food can be addictive or they may face litigation.


Zurich London, which insures restaurants, hotels, clubs, pubs and off licences, said if underwriters fear there may be a rise in claims, they will increase premiums further and may apply exclusions to withdraw cover for known risks.


Head of public liability John Inwood said: "We are urging the food and drink sector to revisit their risk management policies, as insurers will be looking more closely than ever before at what the food and drink sector is doing to demonstrate that they are being socially responsible."


A host of companies are now becoming more health conscious. McDonald's stocks fruit and salads, while America's biggest food company Kraft is shrinking its ready-made meals and snacks to help combat the obesity epidemic. Pizza Hut also recently announced it will ban smoking in its restaurants.


According to the National Audit Office, obesity levels in England have trebled in the last 20 years with around one in five adults seriously overweight. Common problems related to obesity are heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.


Insurers are also worried that food and drink establishments may face claims for smoking- and drinking-related diseases. Mr Inwood said: "In the US, alcoholic drinks carry health warnings. I think there is a strong potential for something similar to happen in the UK.


"At a time when campaigners are calling for tighter controls on responsible drinking and mandatory labelling of alcohol content, we have seen an increase in the promotion of alcohol, be it larger measures, two-for-one shots and 'alcopops' are also on the increase, so is the message coming through?"


Phil Grace, liability risk manager at the UK's largest general insurer Norwich Union, said his company was aware of the issue and "concerned it might be a problem in the future. This is the latest step in the growth of the compensation culture and if there is one claim, more will follow like a domino effect."







9.  FTC Report Cites Improvements in Alcohol Industry Self-Regulation

Press Release - Federal Trade Commission

September 9, 2003


WASHINGTON - In response to a request from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and hearings by House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank R. Wolf, the Federal Trade Commission today issued a Report on Alcohol Marketing and Advertising. The Report examines whether advertising for flavored malt beverages (FMBs) -- beverages that combine characteristics of beer and distilled spirits -- is targeted to underage consumers, as well as whether the alcohol industry has implemented self-regulatory recommendations made in the FTC's 1999 Alcohol Report to Congress. The FTC conducted an investigation of nine major alcohol advertisers, analyzing their advertisements, marketing plans, and consumer research. The Report's analysis indicates significant improvement in standards for the placement of alcohol ads, as well as improvement in the adoption of external advertising review mechanisms. The Report also found no evidence of targeting underage consumers in the FMB market. The FTC's Report concludes that while advertising self-regulation is designed to reduce the number of ads seen by minors, a comprehensive alcohol policy also must address underage access to alcohol.


In 1999, the FTC issued a series of recommendations to Congress regarding alcohol industry self-regulation. The 2003 Report examines whether the alcohol industry has implemented these recommendations and what actions marketers are currently taking to prevent advertising to minors. Until recently, voluntary alcohol codes generally required that at least 50 percent of the audience for alcohol ads consist of adult consumers aged 21 and over. The 1999 Report criticized both this standard and the low level of effort to ensure compliance with it, and identified several best practices in alcohol advertising placement to minimize underage exposure.


The FTC's recent investigation indicates that although FMBs have become increasingly popular, FMB marketers for the most part have complied with 2002 voluntary alcohol codes regarding ad placement. In 2002, for example, over 99 percent of the FMB advertising budget for television, radio, and print media was spent in compliance with the 50 percent placement standard. Documents produced by the companies also show that the intended targets for FMBs were above the legal drinking age. Moreover, in response

to concerns raised about teen exposure to alcohol ads, the industry now has committed to adhere to a 70 percent placement standard and to implement post-placement audits. The Report notes that FMB advertising may have a "spillover" effect on teens, because themes that appeal to younger, of-age consumers also appeal to underage consumers. The Report urges strong caution when introducing new alcohol products to ensure that they are not directed to an underage audience.


The FTC's 1999 Report also recommended that the alcohol industry use independent, third-party reviewers to determine whether ads complied with industry code standards, particularly to address complaints about underage appeal. The new Report finds that, since issuance of the 1999 Report, there has been modest but important movement toward external review. One company has adopted a third-party review system, and one trade association has improved the operation of its own external review mechanisms. Other companies also are considering adopting alternative external review systems.


The FTC's Report concludes that while advertising self-regulation is designed to prevent advertising and marketing practices that target underage consumers and reduce the number of ads seen by minors, a comprehensive alcohol policy also must address the means by which teens actually obtain alcohol for consumption. The FTC will continue to monitor alcohol industry self-regulation. In particular, the FTC will monitor the new placement standard requiring that adults constitute 70 percent of the audience for advertising. Additionally, the FTC will monitor the effectiveness of third-party and other external review programs and will continue to evaluate new advertising programs that may have undue appeal to underage consumers.


The Commission's vote to approve the 2003 Report on Alcohol Marketing and Advertising was 4-0-1, with Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour not participating.









10. Study On Underage Drinking Suggests Alcohol Tax


September 10, 2003



Report: Underage Drinking A $53 Billion Problem In America


WASHINGTON -- A national research group is calling for a broad new attack on teenage drinking.


A report by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council says underage drinking has become a $53 billion problem in America. That includes the cost of traffic fatalities, suicides, violent crimes and academic failure.


More than two-thirds of high school seniors admit they have done at least some drinking, and so do more than one-third of eighth-graders.


Richard Bonnie, the head of the committee that prepared the report, said alcohol use is deeply rooted in American society and adults need to avoid behavior that tends to encourage drinking by kids.


"All segments of U.S. society should address underage drinking in a serious, coordinated, and sustained manner," said Bonnie, director of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. "We have to find effective ways to protect our nation's youth while we respect the interests of responsible adult consumers of alcohol. The recommendations in this report attempt to strike the right balance."


The report calls for the federal government to educate adults on existing laws and the consequences of underage drinking and for federal aid to communities in fighting the battle.


The authors also say alcohol and entertainment industries should take stronger steps to shield young people from unsuitable messages about alcohol consumption.


Among its recommendations is a higher tax on alcohol, particularly on beer, which studies show is the alcoholic beverage that most young people prefer. Alcohol is much cheaper today, after adjusting for inflation, than it was 30 to 40 years ago, the authors said.


Taxing alcohol is an idea that doesn't go down well with Jeff Becker of the Beer Institute. He said that would just mean lost jobs for the industry and higher prices for responsible adult drinkers.


11. Bar Business Drops with More Arrests

By: Vanessa Miller - Iowa City Press-Citizen

September 11, 2003


Bar owners claim increase in house parties


The lights were low, the music was loud, and the alcohol was flowing.

Dave Calhoun of Fleck Sales pulls a keg back into a cooler Wednesday at John’s Grocery during a delivery stop. Press-Citizen/Jason A. Cook

When Jackie Larue went out earlier this year, she found herself standing shoulder to shoulder in a crowded room - and it wasn't a bar.

"I've been going to more house parties than I did last year because I don't want to be in downtown as much," said Larue, 19, a University of Iowa sophomore from Mount Prospect, Ill. "I've been trying to stay away from the bars because I got two tickets last year, and the police are everywhere."

That was what some bar owners feared.

With the city's new law banning those under age 19 from entering bars after 10 p.m., and with the recent jump in underage drinking citations, many bar owners claim their business is dropping while off-premises alcohol sales are rising.

"The number of people in bars has been plummeting," said Mike Porter, owner of the Summit Restaurant & Bar and One-Eyed Jake's in downtown Iowa City. "We've had two football weekends in a row, and you don't see the numbers you did last year."

Porter said he thinks those skipping the bars to avoid tickets are landing at house parties in the residential neighborhoods.

"With all the increased enforcement they've done, what have they accomplished?" Porter said. "They've pushed kids into the neighborhoods ... but they haven't stopped underage drinking."

During the weekend of UI's first home football game Aug. 30, police issued 204 tickets for possession of alcohol under the legal age. That is more than double the 92 tickets issued during the first football weekend last year.

Last weekend, UI's second home football weekend, officers issued 195 tickets for possession of alcohol under the legal age. Last year, during the weekend of UI's second home football game in which the Hawkeyes battled Iowa State University, officers issued 76 tickets.

Police Capt. Tom Widmer said that while officers are finding more underage drinkers per bar visit this year, it's normal procedure to send extra officers downtown on a home football weekend.

"What are the bar owners doing differently to stop 200 tickets from being written?" Police Sgt. Brian Krei said, adding that officers haven't noticed an increase in house parties this year. "There have always been large house parties on the weekends. It's that time of year. It's nice and hot, and there are home football games."

Krei said after the Iowa football game last weekend against Buffalo, police received 66 residential noise complaints. Last year after the Utah State game, a game of similar significance, officers received 54 noise complaints.

"That's 12 complaints, which is not a significant difference," Krei said.

During the first home football weekend, in addition to the underage possession of alcohol tickets, officers issued seven disorderly house tickets for unruly parties. That number jumped to 18 disorderly house tickets last weekend.

"People are going to figure out how to get what they want," Porter said, adding that he thinks many of those attending house parties are of-age patrons that used to frequent the bars. "You've got to assume that half of those are legal people that used to come downtown. I just want the legal ones back that are consuming half of the alcohol sold off-premises."

At John's Grocery, 401 E. Market St., employees said they have noticed an upsurge in keg sales.

"They have increased this year, and that may be due to kids getting kicked out of bars, but we've been more aggressive in our pricing, too," said Doug Alberhasky, the beer guy at John's Grocery. "We are the cheapest place in town. And we are moving a whole lot more eight- and five-gallon kegs as opposed to the 16-gallon kegs."

Alberhasky said they also have seen an increase in demand for non-alcoholic root beer kegs, which used to be exclusively popular for children's birthday parties.

At Regal Liquor in the Hy-Vee Food Store at 1720 Waterfront Drive, officials confirmed a slight rise in alcohol sales.

"We have a small increase in keg sales," store director Al Dix said. "But the weather might have something to do with that."

Jim Clayton, co-director of the Stepping-Up project, a UI-led coalition against underage drinking, said no one has proven that house parties increase when bar business decreases.

"There is no evidence that says when you limit access to bars, you then increase those at house parties," he said. "If business is down, where is the income loss? It's the law that's taking their dollars not the house parties."

But Don Stalkfleet, owner of the Sport's Column and Joe's Place in downtown Iowa City, disagrees.

"Twelve-thousand to 17,000 kegs this year will go to off-premises sales," he said, claiming to have gotten the number from beer distributors. "That is at least 1,000 kegs a month. Either a lot more people are getting married or a lot more people are drinking off premises."

Stalkfleet said house parties are dangerous because they are unsupervised, uninsured, and they put drinkers behind the wheel.

"People tend to walk to downtown Iowa City," he said. "They are putting people back on the streets. Their solution to me is ludicrous."

Sheila Patel, 20, said she has noticed a lot more house parties this year than in the past.

"Oh, big time," said the UI junior from Glendale Heights, Ill. "All the freshman are scattering around trying to find the house parties. They used to go to house parties after the bars, now they go instead of the bars. I think it is a bad thing because it is not safe to go walking around town at night. At least at bars, there are buses and a lot of people around."