(WSVN) - It’s a beer with no alcohol, but it’s being sold like a beer with alcohol, so should stores be treating alcohol-free beer like regular beer? It’s a question one man brought to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Joel likes to spend his day in a storage shed he calls his office. Spends the day with a guy he named The Monster.
Joel Miller, zero interest in alcohol: “Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, he is always by my side.”
Some of you may be familiar with the little pug, who Joel is trying to make an internet sensation.
Joel Miller: “He’s got almost 800 followers right now on Twitter and building even more on Facebook.”
The Monster makes people smile, but he is more than a cute dog to Joel.
Joel Miller: “He’s my life. He keeps me off the train tracks, believe it or not. He’s my psychiatric service dog. He’s not an emotional support dog.”
The little guy helps keep Joel sane and sober, and if Joel wants a beer, he only drinks Heineken Zero.
Joel Miller: “Heineken Zero, alcohol-free. Yeah, it almost tastes like the real thing but without the alcohol, and it doesn’t get you messed up.”
No alcohol, no hangover for Joel, but buying it can be a headache.
Joel Miller: “I went over to the gas station over here, the Marathon Gas Station, and I tried to get a six-pack of that. They wouldn’t let me get it. All right, I went over to the Walgreens, and I tried to buy it over there. The registers wouldn’t let me buy it.”
At both places, Joel was told they couldn’t sell alcohol after 2 a.m., but he countered: the new Heineken Zero doesn’t have alcohol.
Joel Miller: “That’s all it is. It’s a cold beverage. A banana has more alcohol in it than a non-alcoholic beer.”
Joel showed them it says zero, alcohol-free.
Didn’t matter, he was told. It’s an alcoholic beverage.
Joel Miller: “It doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Well, Howard, legally does beer with no alcohol get treated like bottled water? Or a beer with alcohol?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “No alcohol means no alcohol, and the state of Florida does not regulate beer with no alcohol like this Heineken Zero beer, but having said that, because it’s called beer, some businesses are confused and treat it like the low-alcohol beer. In fact, in theory, a teenager could buy this zero alcohol beer because it does not have any alcohol at all.”
Turns out, selling the no alcohol beer varies from store to store.
We checked a few and were told they would sell zero alcohol beer to anyone, but Heineken wrote, “All of our products (alcoholic and alcohol-free) are meant only for individuals of legal drinking age,” and Walgreens said, “We hold non-alcoholic beers to the same standards as adult beverages containing alcohol because they are marketed and intended for adults of legal drinking age.”
Howard Finkelstein: “Yes, stores can pick and choose their policy and set age and time restrictions. In this case, they are being cautious because it’s a new product that has them confused.”
You have probably figured out by now, Joel drinks beer with no alcohol for a reason: he liked alcohol too much and is happy to say he has not had a drop in a year.
Joel Miller: “It actually feels pretty good because I’m actually more in tune. I’m finding out more people are messed up now that I’m not drinking.”
And good luck staying away from alcohol, Joel.
Now, while the state of Florida doesn’t regulate zero-alcohol beer, they might try to because if it’s regulated, the state can collect a beer tax when it’s sold, and the state loves to bring in more money.
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