Last Saturday afternoon at Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach turned a little sour for some after patrons discovered signs that read "Kava is proof that God hates beer" posted directly in front the establishment just beyond the property line.
The phrase appears to be similar to a quote often misattributed to Ben Franklin that states, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
The signs were an advertising campaign by Kavasutra Kava Bar, which has five locations in South Florida, one sitting less than a half mile from Saltwater.
Kavasutra sells bowls of kava, a root Native to islands in the South Pacific that's known for its sedating effects. According to its website, Kavasutra uses kava that's imported from Vanuatu, an island country roughly 2,200 miles northeast of Australia.
The intoxicating effects of kava have caused some to consider it a replacement for alcohol. The idea is that the beverage can still be consumed in a social environment like a bar but without the consequences of consuming too much booze. The drink is typically served in a bowl with a wedge of pineapple.
Part of the local beer community isn't too pleased about the signs, however. Dustin Jeffers, who is Saltwater's head of brewing operations, was made aware of the signs but says he had no idea what kava was until Saturday. He wasn't sure why the signs showed up directly in front of his brewery, but he didn't think of it as a big deal at first.
After he began considering how much involvement he says the brewery puts into the community, including advocacy for ocean wildlife and habitats, Jeffers said he started to feel a little slighted. He also says the signs are a "bad move," since Saltwater might start promoting kombucha beverages as a nonalcoholic alternative.
Jeffers considered the idea of brewing a beer aged on kava to poke fun at the situation but backed out after believing the federal government wouldn't approve the ingredient. "I felt that it wasn't worth the time," Jeffers says.
It's the topic of several internet forums and websites, but the idea of combining kava and alcohol is questionable. Kava exists legally as a dietary supplement in the U.S., but government agencies have put out warnings for years that kava could potentially harm your liver. However, while some studies suggest that alcohol could play a role in liver damage when combined with kava, others have shown no link.
Once everything blows over, Jeffers says he might consider reaching out to Kavasutra's owner. But he might have a hard time doing so: When reached by phone, an employee of the Kavasutra location on Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale didn't know who the owner is.
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Florida business filings show that Lake Worth attorney Michael Antinori is the registered agent for Kavasutra Inc., including the company's Delray location. When contacted, Antinori declined to comment for this story and didn't appear to be aware of the signs.
The Kavasutra trademark was once registered to Dylan Harrison, a convicted synthetic weed manufacturer who spent a year in federal prison and who was represented by Antinori on a civil complaint against the West Palm Beach Police Department.
The trademark is now registered to Ronald VanTassell, who, according to the Palm Beach Post, is Harrison's childhood friend.
Saltwater Brewery. 1701 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach; 561-865-5373; saltwaterbrewery.com. Open Sunday through Tuesday noon to 10 p.m., Wednesday through Thursday noon to 11 p.m., and Friday through Saturday noon to midnight.