Despite controversy, Four Loko still available in DeKalb

By David Matz and Jack Baker

College campuses around the country are abuzz about the controversial caffeinated alcoholic drink Four Loko.

In a press release dated Nov. 17, the Food and Drug Administration warned four companies that produce caffeinated alcoholic drinks that caffeine added to an alcoholic beverage is an “unsafe food additive.”

The letter also warned that the agency can ban such products from the market if changes are not made. In response to the recent controversy and warning from the FDA, Phusion Projects, LLC, the company that produces Four Loko, has announced that it will take the caffeine and other additives out of the drink.

Despite the controversy with Four Loko and other alcoholic caffeinated drinks, some liquor stores in DeKalb still keep the drink in stock.

Both Lundeen’s Discount Liquors, 1030 Arcadia Drive and Thirsty Liquors, 1039 W. Hillcrest Drive, keep Four Loko and other brands like Joose, Tilt and Sparks in stock.

Management at both stores are aware of the controversy surrounding the products. Lundeen’s night manager Robert Hernandez said the liquor store will keep the products in stock unless they are banned.

Thirsty Liquors manager Charles Wojtanek said the store will also keep the products in stock, and one of the next shipments will include the caffeine-free version of the drinks. Not all liquor stores in DeKalb keep the drinks readily available.

Both American Liquors, 159 W. Lincoln Highway, and American Liquors, 1320 Sycamore Road, don’t stock alcoholic energy drinks.

“It’s just a dangerous item in our eyes,” said American Liquors manager Christe Salisbury. American Liquors does carry one flavor of Joose because it has a lower alcohol content than Four Loko.

Salisbury said she feels it’s safer.

A liquor department manager at Jewel-Osco said the large grocery store chain never carried Four Loko or any other kind of caffeinated alcoholic drinks.

Even amid the negative national media attention and the warnings sent out by the FDA, all the store managers, except at Jewel-Osco, said demand for the products has been high.

“It flies off the shelves,” Hernandez said.

“It’s hard to keep it in stock,” Salisbury said.

She said even though American Liquors doesn’t keep it in stock, a lot of people still come in looking for Four Loko.

“It’s surprising that more people are buying it even with all the attention,” Wojtanek said.

He said he believes Four Loko is popular because it’s the “combination of an energy drink and liquor in a can,” which are both popular for the younger college student consumers.

“You’re getting really drunk, really quickly,” Salisbury said.

Hernandez said he believes its popular because “it’s cheap and effective.”

Sean Mertens, junior computer science major, is a self-described “big fan” of Four Loko. His thoughts of why the drink is popular follows suit with the retailers.

“I have had it and I think it is delicious,” Mertens said. “It tastes awesome, it’s relatively cheap, and it’s got tons of alcohol in it.”

He said he is aware of the concerns surrounding the drink, and he said he would drink one over the course of a night or even a couple nights, but he knows most other people do not do that.

“They wouldn’t ban it if there was a reason to,” Mertens said. “They’re just afraid of people making stupid decisions with it.”

Sophomore biology major Ellie Masters said she disagrees with Mertens.

Masters said she thinks drinking Four Loko is a bad idea because of the amount of caffeine and alcohol mixed together. But she also said she thinks that banning it will not help students be any safer because many people already mix energy drinks alcohol.

“I don’t think banning it is going to do anything,” Masters said. “It would make it less accessible, but it’s not like you can’t make it up yourself.”

Hernandez said he believes that Four Loko is like any alcoholic beverage, it’s all about enjoying it in moderation.

“I don’t think it’s the product,” Hernandez said. “It’s the kids that’s the problem.”