Convenience Store Cocktails: Are they legal?

Convenience Store Cocktails: Are they legal?
Source: WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - You may see the bright, colorful signs advertising "frozen blended cocktails" in convenience store and gas station windows around the Pine Belt.

Concerns and rumors about the mixed drinks led to one concerned resident going before Hattiesburg City Council during the citizen's forum last week.

"The gas station on Hardy Street is selling margaritas from an ice machine," the woman told council members.  "There is no public eating area there, there is no sidewalk seating there and there is no place to walk conveniently there," she said.

"So when my neighbors in The Avenues are concerned about speeding and stop sign running, it may be due to the selling of those alcoholic beverages in to-go cups," the concerned woman went on to say.

After that forum, city officials said they started looking into the drinks and so did I.

I found the "frozen blended cocktails" being sold at two convenience stores on Hardy Street.  Employees inside one convenience store told me the drinks were a big seller.

The question - how are convenience stores selling these beverages, marketed with flavors like hurricane and margarita, those drinks usually sold with liquor.

A spokeswoman with the Mississippi Department of Revenue told our sister station, WLBT, the drinks actually don't have any liquor at all.

"Products that are malt based or wine based, wine being less than five percent based, flavored beverages," said Spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury.  "It is a flavored product, it is a beer slushy for lack of a better explanation," Waterbury said.

I reached out to the Hattiesburg Police Department about the beverages.  The department released this statement:

"The Hattiesburg Police Department is aware of the beverages that are being sold at some convenience stores around the state.  The Hattiesburg Police Department has not received any complaints regarding said beverages.  The beverages are deemed legal."

According to officials, as long as the store employee puts a lid on the Styrofoam cup, making it a closed container, it is legal.  The same goes for the person who purchases the drink.  Depending on where that person is, he or she would break the law once the straw is put through the lid, or the lid is removed,  making it an open container.

"It's concerning when you see slushees with alcohol being sold to someone," said Lt. Robert Little with the Jones County Sheriff's Department.  "The retailer says they sell it with the intent the person will leave it closed until they get to their destination."

While Jones County is a dry county, Lt. Little said stores in the Laurel city limits are selling the beverages.

"Individual beverages, such as beer, are sold in a bottle and that happens frequently," said Lt. Little.  "But, with a slushee, you wouldn't expect for someone to buy an icee at a store and just keep it and carry it with them to their destination."

With the convenience of have the frozen blended cocktail at a convenience store or gas station, Lt. Little says it could increase the risk of people drinking and driving.

"I think that by selling the beverages in the manner they are being sold,  it does create a potential for drinking and driving incidents. It makes it readily available that it's just ready to consume for the individual," Lt. Little said.

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