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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Shelton Brothers Runs Afoul of Maine Regulators

While it continues to battle New York officials, Shelton Brothers of Massachusetts is now taking the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement to federal court because that state will not allow three brands the company imports to be sold in the state.

One of the beers, Santa's Butt Winter Porter, is also involved in the New York dispute. Maine regulators also feel that the label featuring Santa Claus will appeal to children. The other two beers are being censored because the label art features bare-breasted women.

Shelton is bringing the lawsuit with the help of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, saying the art on the label is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Les Sans Culottes, a French biere de garde, uses a Eugene Delacroix painting from the 1830s in the Louvre collection, "Liberty Leading the People." The label on Rose de Gambrinus, a Belgian lambic, has a watercolor painting with a naked woman.

Officials in Maine say they reject very few label applications each year and make decisions based on what people will be exposed to while shopping retail stores. While disputes like the New York and Maine rulings hurt Shelton's ability to get seasonal products on store shelves in time for the holidays, the publicity brings attention to the importer's products. News of the lawsuits have been picked up in a number of newspapers and television stations, as well as being carried by major wire services.

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