This staid city has an unlikely greeter on its main drag.
He's green and beady-eyed and yearning for attention. He and a cohort can be seen on television, usually between timeouts. He has it in for some wildly popular amphibians who rhythmically repeat the same three syllables over and over. He answers to the name Louie.The first billboard visible on Center Street just off of I-15 features a jealous Budweiser lizard saying, "We could have been huge." The lizards, you might recall, tried to assassinate the Budweiser frogs in those serial TV spots.
Several of the billboards are scattered around town including one on University Avenue, the city's busiest thoroughfare. The sky-high beer ads might be a first for one of the driest communities along the Wasatch Front.
Welcome to Provo: This Bud's for you.
"We're getting to be more cosmopolitan every day," cracked Leland Gamette, Provo economic development director. He said he hadn't noticed the billboards, which have been up for about six weeks.
Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce President Steve Densely hasn't seen the signs either. But he can't imagine them persuading a largely teetotaling town to imbibe.
"It's probably a waste of money," he said. "But maybe there's more people that like frogs than I thought."
Provo was rife with taverns long before animated frogs entertained America and beer became available in grocery stores. As many as 30 watering holes dotted the city a half century ago. Now, there are only three Center Street bars and a handful of restaurants and private establishments like Riverside Country Club where someone can guzzle a bottle of cold brew.
"We think of ourselves as a much more pristine community than we really are," Gamette said. "A lot of people drink, but they do it in the privacy of their own home."
People use tobacco, too. And have for a long time. A faded advertisement on the side of the historic Gates-Snow Building on Center Street pitches "a great 5 cent cigar."
State law technically prohibits the advertising of alcohol on billboards. But the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission issued new guidelines in the fall of 1996 that allows such advertising. The commission's guidelines are a rare example of administrative policy superseding state law, said Earl Dorius, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Department's licensing and compliance manager .
The billboard ban, however, remains on the books. The Utah Legislature hasn't amended the law because the state is currently in litigation over the commission's policy allowing the advertising of beer with no more than 3.2 percent alcohol, but not wine and other spirits, Dorius said.
Big Four Distributing, a Provo company whose name appears on the sign, referred questions to Anheuser-Busch, the makers of Budweiser, in St. Louis.
Calls to the company's media relations office were not returned.
That Budweiser billboards would bubble up in Provo is ironic. A group of Brigham Young University students recently circulated a petition on campus protesting Anheuser-Busch's sponsorship of the 2002 Winter Games. The group, which finds beer and Olympics incongruous, delivered the petition containing about 2,000 names to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee last week.