BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Welcome back to Margaritaville: Singer Jimmy Buffett's childhood home on Thursday backed off a short-lived ban on the sale of pitchers of the drink he made famous.
The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board announced an end to the pitcher prohibition a day after al.com published a column criticizing the moratorium. The irresistible mix of Buffett, Alabama's perceived prudishness and tequila helped the topic quickly gain traction on social media.
The agency denied changing its mind because of publicity. The reversal had already been under consideration, said spokesman Dean Argo.
Margaritas — both the frozen and on-the-rocks versions — are particularly popular in Mexican restaurants. But some stopped selling them in June on orders from the state agency, which determined that only beer could be served by the pitcher and had inspectors check for violations.
The brief ban was based on an old rule that makes it illegal to "adulterate" alcohol, Argo said. The state determined pitchers of Margaritas were illegal since each glass from a pitcher could have a different amount of alcohol.
Beer pitchers are a different matter, Argo said. "The alcohol content does not fluctuate or sink while sitting on a counter," he said.
Argo said ABC officials decided to change their view of the code section that led to the ban after discussing the issue with the Alabama Beverage Licensees Association. The law mentions pitcher sales of drinks that are "customarily" sold that way, he said.
The executive director of the trade group, Brandon Owens, said he first heard of the ban weeks ago from a business that was barred from selling sangria by the pitcher. He attributed the problem to relatively new state inspectors not understanding ABC rules.
"I think what you're seeing is a training issue," said Owens.
Argo said allowing the resumption of pitcher sales should give businesses "the flexibility they need to meet the needs of their customers, while maintaining the integrity of the original rule."
Born on the Mississippi coast, Buffett spent his childhood in Mobile, Alabama, and helped popularize the drink with his 1977 hit "Margaritaville."