An Anheuser-Busch promotion to get men to try Bud Light Platinum by having young women hand them bottles of the stuff at a downtown club went awry when one of the men who accepted a bottle turned out to be a plainclothes detective well versed in the Massachusetts regulation that prohibits free samples of alcoholic beverages.
Gem, 44 Province St., finds out later this week whether the Boston Licensing Board will punish it for the April 11 incident that involved a Dallas promotion company that specializes in "sampling campaigns."
Det. William Gallagher told the board this morning that he and partner Sgt. Det. Robert Mulvey, went into Gem around 11:30 p.m. for a routine inspection. Gallagher said a young woman in a blue dress, one of a gaggle of young women in blue dresses, promptly handed him a bottle of Bud Platinum from a cooler filled with bottles of the stuff at one of the club's tables. Gallagher did not specify the shade of blue the women wore, but presumably it matched that of the cobalt blue used on Bud Light Platinum bottles.
Club managers acknowledged the presence of Platinum-swilling women in blue dresses and said they were there for a promotion in which they would all sit around a table drinking Bud Platinums throughout the night and entice men to chat with them so that they could be educated on the wonders of Bud Platinum - which consists chiefly of having a higher alcohol content than regular Bud.
But the managers said the women were not actually handing out "free" beer. For one thing, the promoter paid the club for 66 bottles of Bud Platinum. For another, the women were only supposed to have one or two on hand at a time - and not give out any free samples, which might cut into the club's beer take.
Board Chairwoman Nicole Murati-Ferrer didn't buy that for a second. "You think seven females would drink 66 Bud Platinums?" she asked.
She then asked Gallagher and Mulvey how many bottles of Bud Platinum were in the cooler on the table at the time they walked in. Mulvey estimated about 20 - with another 10 on the way - which Ferrer noted would be over the two beers per person that is the maximum allowed for a patron to have at one time under state law.
"Looking the other way does not exempt you (from regulations)," she said.