COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio rule against depicting Santa Claus in beer advertising has landed a red-suited Spuds MacKenzie in the doghouse, but Anheuser-Busch Inc. on Wednesday won a stay of an order that cartons featuring the "party animal" be pulled from shelves.
The Ohio Department of Liquor Control ordered the company to halt shipments into the state of any packaging referring to Santa Claus, and to pull offending cartons from store shelves by Friday.
The St. Louis-based brewery, which used a photo of Spuds in Santa garb on 12-packs of Bud Light and in store displays, issued a terse response.
"We are stopping further shipments of the Spuds MacKenzie Bud Light holiday packaging to Ohio due to Ohio Department of Liquor Control regulations," Michael J. Roarty, executive vice president of Anheuser Busch, said in a statement Wednesday.
"Our regular Bud Light packaging will replace all outstanding orders."
J. Gregg Haught, a Columbus attorney representing Anheuser-Busch, said an appeal and a motion for a stay was filed Monday with the Ohio Liquor Control Commission.
The three-member commission late Wednesday granted the stay pending a Dec. 10 hearing on the appeal.
Spuds, an English terrier, appears wearing a Santa-like jacket and cap, with a bag full of beer.
Vicky Gelety, a department spokeswoman, said the administrative rule against Santa ads dated to at least 1950, and also covers ads portraying military subjects.
"I think the rationale is Santa Claus does appeal to children, naturally. This type of advertising would appeal to children. The fact is, teen-agers do abuse alcohol. There are many statistics that have proven that," she said.
She added, "I think Spuds is very cute. I also think that he does appeal to children, and I'm not sure that's good."
Similar concerns have prompted officials in some schools across the country to ban the wearing of Spuds T-shirts by children.
Lee Oberlag, a spokeswoman for Heidelberg Distributing in Cincinnati, which distributes Anheuser-Busch products, said the supply already on store shelves normally would last through Christmas. But she said the cartons in question could be cleared out earlier.
"I mean, as it turns out, it's going to be a real collector's item," she said.
Joe Perrotti, a sales clerk at McBill Beverages Inc. in Cleveland, said he was surprised to learn of a problem.
"Maybe the state of Ohio is behind the time in how to sell liquor and things," Perrotti said. "We do have it, and I think it's cute. I've got five ladies in front me now, and they all think it's cute."