Craft brewers Justin and Sarah Brigham of Charlotte wanted to create a special hard seltzer for New Year’s Eve revelers to give COVID-troubled 2020 an appropriate sendoff, said their lawyer, Michael Boyer, but state alcoholic beverage regulators stopped them in December.

And the regulators rejected the couple again on Wednesday morning.

The new seltzer from the Brighams’ company, Sycamore Brewing, was to be called “F— 2020 BUBS” (with the fudge-word in place of the dashes). The staff of North Carolina’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission told the Brighams that name is not allowed. And so the public on Dec. 31 was not able to say sayonara to bad year by raising a can or glass of F— 2020 BUBS hard seltzer.

New Year’s Eve is long past, and the Brighams no longer have any plans to produce the seltzer, Boyer said. But they filed an appeal anyway. The couple believes the regulation is unfair, unclear and arbitrary, with hidden, shifting standards, Boyer said, and they want that changed.

“It’s hard to play by the rules when — when one doesn’t know what the rules truly are,” he said.

The ABC Commission on Wednesday morning listened to a detailed argument on Sycamore Brewing’s behalf from Boyer, and a passionate argument against the use of profanity from the Rev. Mark Creech of The Christian Action League.

The Christian Action League is a socially conservative activist group that opposes alcohol use.

And then on the recommendation of a staff attorney and without debate, the commissioners voted against the brewery.

The Brighams have not decided whether to take their appeal to the next level, the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, Boyer said.

The broken rule

The ABC Commission enforces a multitude of rules regarding the sale of alcoholic products, including their advertising and the appearance of the labels on the bottles and cans.

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