Store Sells ‘Cocaine,’ Till Callers Snort ‘No’

Oct. 24–The poster on the window boasted: “The Legal Alternative: Cocaine Energy Drink Sold Here.”

Yes. Right there in the refrigerated section of a San Jose 7-Eleven. Nestled beside the Redline and Hyphy Grapple (a caffeine-packed grape-and-apple juice) Coke-red cans proclaimed, “Cocaine.”

But hold on, before you dash out to order a 8.4 ounce can to go with your Buffalo Chicken Go Go Taquitos: Corpo-rate 7-Eleven is having none of it.

On Monday, after fielding a Mercury News reporter’s inquiry, the convenience store giant recommended franchi-sees remove cans of the provocative new drink from shelves.

More than recommend.

“We don’t want you to carry this,” clerk Baljinder Hundal said a 7-Eleven representative told him as they pulled the cans and two signs, one on the window next to the front door of the store on South Bascom Avenue.

And the sales were going so well, clerks said. Stocked at the behest of a distributor last Wednesday, the store al-ready had sold one carton of 24 cans and had opened the second, clerk Johnny Zhang said.

The drink attracted mostly young customers, especially girls, he said. The store is two blocks east of Del Mar High School in San Jose.

Energy drinks, loaded with sugar, caffeine and vitamins, cater to sleep-deprived students and athletes. A $2.19 can of Cocaine, produced by Las Vegas-registered Redux Beverages, claims to have 18 grams of sugar and 350 percent more caffeine than Red Bull, a popular energy drink which has 80 milligrams of caffeine. A cup of coffee may have from 115 to 175 milligrams of caffeine.

A throat-numbing ingredient is added to the drink to emulate its namesake.

Controversy has followed Redux since it introduced the drink last month in New York and Los Angeles.

San Jose parents who heard about the drink were not amused. “Most were just as livid as I was,” said Campbell resident Steve Bevan, who called 7-Eleven Inc. to complain. He said he was told that the company could not control what franchises sell.

But corporate spokeswoman Margaret Chabris said the company has sent out the word recommending franchisees not carry the drink. “They just didn’t think that the product’s name was appropriate for the image we’re trying to por-tray,” she said.

And what might that be? Well, for one, she said, “our image is legal.”

She pointed out that in the last decade, after the introduction of non-alcoholic beer, 7-Elevens would not sell the product even though it contained no alcohol, to minors. “We didn’t want to be in a position to encourage anyone to drink if they were not of age,” she said.

Nor, perhaps, to romanticize an illegal drug?

“It would not be in the best interest of the franchisee if the neighborhood is upset.”