Beer company attacks smoking ban

Rheingold Brewing ads make fun of various New York City laws

Apr 12, 2004 - A new set of commercials from the Rheingold Brewing Co. attacks several New York City laws, most notably the ban on smoking in restaurants and bars.


"This is New York, and we can't sleep till we take it back," the narrator says in all three of the spots, which began appearing on cable TV last week.

In the one called "Ashtray" hipsters are shown on the streets with ashtrays in their pockets. They head into a bar, put down their ashtrays and are served Rheingold before the screen fades to read: "No Smoking in Bars. Fines Issued: $200 up."

Mayor Bloomberg's office called the ads a cynical ploy by Rheingold. "When times were tough, Rheingold abandoned Brooklyn, laying off 4,000 New Yorkers," said Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for Bloomberg. "Now that times are better, they want to exploit the city to sell their product. They have as much of a connection to New York as Heineken does."

Rheingold closed its Brooklyn brewery in 1976, but five years ago returned as New York City brand while having its beer contract brewed in upstate Utica.

Rheingold chief executive Tom Bendheim said he went after the smoking ban because its important to the bars and consumers who buy his beer. "We're trying to impress on people that the foundation of what the city was built on was Bohemia, and every one of these laws ... just begins to erode the foundation of what makes the city great," said Neil Powell, the ad's creator.

Powell put together a list of topics for future ads, including the restriction on feeding pigeons, a ban on bikers lifting both feet off the pedals, and a ticket given to a pregnant woman who stopped to rest on subway steps.

The Daily News asked what that has to do with beer. "It should appeal to the people that enjoy nightlife in New York City," Powell said. "And drinking beer is part of that."

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