After One-Day Ban, Ron Jeremy Rum Restocked in Manitoba

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from – In a potent reminder of the arbitrary censorial powers of Canadian liquor authorities, a rum cheekily named for pornographic actor Ron Jeremy was pulled from Manitoba store shelves after customers complained it was obscene.

Dubbed Ron de Jeremy, the liquor’s label features an image of Ron Jeremy’s face above the taglines “the adult liquor” and “long smooth taste.”

Andrea Kowal, spokeswoman for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, said Manitoba liquor stores were ordered to remove the product from shelves late last week after authorities “erred on the side of caution” following several customer complaints.

On Thursday, however, after the decision was publicized, the rum was restocked after liquor authorities determined that it did not, in fact, have any obscene content. “There’s nothing offensive about the name of the product or its label; you have to know who Ron Jeremy is and what his former profession was — and then that has to offend you,” said Ms. Kowal.

“I’m just happy this whole drama is behind us and we can work on getting rum to the Canadian people,” said Olli Hietalahti, the CEO of One Eyed Spirits, the maker of Ron de Jeremy, speaking by phone from Finland.

While the episode is a first for the Helsinki-based company, it may be less surprising for any other company familiar with Canada’s stringent liquor laws, many of which are echoes of the strict alcohol guidelines that were introduced 80 years ago as part of a compromise to end prohibition.

In Vancouver, outdated provincial liquor laws almost drove the city’s Rio Theatre to bankruptcy last year. After obtaining a long-sought liquor licence, the owners were informed that they had to shut down the majority of their operations as B.C.’s licensed venues were prohibited from showing movies. The rules were eventually relaxed after months of lobbying by local politicians.

In Quebec last summer, provincial liquor authorities refused to grant a liquor licence to a suburban Montreal bar unless they first refused to play rap or hip hop music, purportedly to cut down on crime and other disturbances at the venue.

On TV, Canadian liquor advertisers are not technically allowed to portray their product as a “status symbol” or as a means towards gaining “social acceptance.” Perhaps most notoriously, the commercial cannot contain images, sounds or even hints of the product being consumed.

Brewers, distillers and bar owners, meanwhile, must walk a delicate tightrope between edginess and content that may attract liquor board censorship.

Five years ago, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) barred a Toronto bar from operating under the name “Booze Emporium,” saying it would encourage heavy drinking. In response, the establishment cheekily reopened as Prohibition Gastropub & Oyster Bar.

Between 2008 and 2011, the LCBO also refused to sell Crystal Head Vodka, a liquor produced at a distillery owned by Canadian actor Dan Aykroyd and sold in a skull-shaped bottle. Authorities justified the ban on the basis that its design was “in bad taste.”

Also in 2011, the LCBO announced it was similarly refusing to sell a craft beer named Smashbomb Atomic IPA, arguing that it was too “extreme.” Ultimately, the board relented after the beer’s maker, Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, performed some tweaks to the label.

“We were able to work through it and we got the product on the shelf and I think both parties had to bend a little,” said Peter Chiodo, the brewery’s president. “The LCBO is getting a lot better; they’ve let a lot more beers through recently so I think they’ve really eased up on it.”

We were able to work through it and we got the product on the shelf and I think both parties had to bend a little

Stringent liquor regulations are not only a Canadian custom. In the U.S., state authorities occasionally clash with liquor-sellers over names deemed inappropriate.

In 2009, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission banned the distribution of Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA, prompting a successful First Amendment challenge from the beer’s makers. In Alabama last year, liquor authorities barred the sale of Dirty Bastard beer.

Only last year, spurred on by vehement opposition from the Canadian wine tourism industry, MPs unanimously voted to end a 1928-era law barring Canadians from transporting wine over provincial borders.

Prior to Manitoba’s reinstatement of Ron de Jeremy, the Winnipeg Free Press scrolled the inventories of Manitoba liquor stores, pointing out a few other suggestive or risqué alcohol names including Fat Bastard wine and Kinky Liqueur, a vodka-based blend advertised as a “naughty infusion.”

“We acknowledge that some alcohol products do have themes and names that do offend some customers, but our products are also for adults,” said Ms. Kowal.

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