The Utah distillery that makes Five Wives Vodka may sue Idaho liquor regulators, who said the vodka won't be sold or poured in Idaho.
Both sides are giving different facts, but here's the gist of where they stand:
Why didn't they appeal?
Jeff Anderson, director of the state's liquor division, said Tuesday that the company, Ogden's Own Distillery, hadn't bothered trying an appeals process before it spread the story that caught fire nationally.
I talked to distillery partner Steve Conlin on Wednesday, and he basically said, "What appeals process?" According to Conlin, the company didn't know it had such an option.
Ogden's Own asked the state twice to let it sell Five Wives here — first in general and then for special orders. The rejection that caused the dust-up was the second one, which said the vodka was offensive to Idahoans.
"When somebody doesn't allow ordering [the liquor at all], I kind of question any type of appeals process," Conlin said. He didn't say if they would try changing the division's mind before going to court.
Is the label offensive to women and Mormons, or a tried-and-true marketing gimmick?
The label shows a row of women lifting their skirts to reveal cats over their crotches. Turns out it's from a photo of the Barrison Sisters, an 1890s vaudeville act.
Anderson said that while news coverage has focused on the LDS-offending part of the state's decision, the label's portrayal of women played a big role.
He asked Tuesday what the distillery was getting at with the illustration. "We think we get it," he said.
"Admittedly, it's a double entendre," Conlin said, then pointed to the Hooters brand. "Putting five supermodels across there would [have been] objectification, too."
The company "did a lot of market research here in Utah. ... People found it funny, but not offensive," he said.
The Five Wives name was a play on polygamy, Conlin said, but it also played off competitor Three Olives Vodka.
Censorship or a business decision?
The company is considering a First Amendment lawsuit, like one brought by Flying Dog Brewery against Michigan liquor regulators who rejected Raging Bitch beer. Flying Dog won that fight.
"We've been contacted by [an] attorney" who defended Raging Bitch, Conlin said.
The case "shows exactly the dangers of one person trying to make the rule for a population at large," he said.
Anderson said the decision wasn't his alone.
The division, whose staff includes Anderson and three deputy directors, has been pitched about 500 products in the past year. It's taken 150. But under what criteria? The packaging, product quality, marketing plan, price, profit margin, competitors on the shelf, and how the company proposes to sell it to bars and other liquor servers, said Anderson.
"It's not uncommon for us to deny" liquors, even for special order, he said. Here's an example of another Idaho-rejected liquor: an alcohol-infused chocolate milk called Adult Chocolate Milk.
"Of the 2,400 items we have in our price book, 150 of them do 80 percent of our sales," he said. That makes the division picky, and it opted against "an average product with a premium price point," he said.