Area stores see Four Loko sales spike

Two Foggy Bottom-area liquor stores have seen an increase in Four Loko sales, after the Food and Drug Administration banned alcoholic energy drinks Wednesday.

Kris Hart, co-owner of the Foggy Bottom Grocery, said sales of Four Loko increased Wednesday, after the FDA’s decision and following the drink’s distributor’s announcement that it was removing the caffeine, guarana and taurine from the drink, effectively making the beverage a malt liquor.

“Sales [of Four Loko] increased a little bit more, especially considering it’s a Wednesday,” Hart said. “Normally you see a spike on Friday or Saturday.”

Hart said he approached the city and the University a couple of weeks ago to start a conversation about banning the beverage.

On Wednesday, an FDA official warned the company that Four Loko is unsafe, and in its current form it is now banned from sale in the U.S.

Young Lee, the vice president of the Market at Columbia Plaza, said he has seen an influx of students buying the drink since the company announced it was removing many of the key ingredients, and rumors of an all-out ban began to surface.

The drink has received negative press this month, as overconsumption of the beverage has been blamed for numerous hospitalizations. One can of Four Loko contains the equivalent of four beers and an eight-ounce cup of coffee, Phusion Projects, the company that produces Four Loko, said.

Phusion said it believes the combination of alcohol and caffeine is safe, and seemed reluctant to change the product.

“We are taking this step after trying – unsuccessfully – to navigate a difficult and politically charged regulatory environment at both the state and federal levels,” Phusion Projects said in a statement.

“There is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern,” Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, deputy commissioner of the FDA, said in a statement.

Sharfstein added that the ban is a result of a review by the FDA.

The federal ban comes after a handful of states, including New York, Michigan and Oklahoma, already banned the drink. Some universities, including the University of Rhode Island, have also banned Four Loko after a recent slew of student hospitalizations due to overconsumption of the drink.

Student Sam Catherman said he hasn’t heard of anybody stockpiling Four Loko now that it has been banned, but he understands why people drink it.

“I can definitely see why students enjoy drinking them, because it gets you really drunk for a very low price,” Catherman said, adding that he doesn’t like the beverage.

Catherman also added that he thought the drink was just a fad that will come and go.

“I am sure people will forget about them once they aren’t what they used to be,” Catherman said. “Once they take the all caffeine out, I’m sure kids will try it and it won’t be the same. So they’ll just forget about it.”

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