Sea World Exemption

A July 13 article cited criticism about Anheuser-Busch's efforts to gain an exemption to the state's tied-house law at San Diego's Sea World. The criticism is unfounded, unfair and irrational.

The company's four Sea World parks were purchased in 1989 by Busch Entertainment Corp. (BEC), the family entertainment subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch that owns 10 theme parks throughout the United States. The purchase was made for one reason: to help expand BEC into the second largest theme park in operation in the country. Any issues surrounding the sale of alcohol beverages at the San Diego park were secondary to the purpose of the purchase.

Now that Busch Entertainment owns the San Diego facility, it desires to have the same privilege enjoyed by Sea World's former owners to serve alcohol beverages responsibly for the enjoyment of park guests, including cocktails at private parties only. This requires an exemption from the tied-house law. As was noted, the exemption has been passed by the California Legislature.

Such exemptions, it should be said, are not unusual. Other companies have found themselves in similar situations. The California Legislature, after due deliberation, has agreed to grant exemptions to these corporations.

Anheuser-Busch did not seek any favored treatment in asking for the exemption. Certainly, we never took for granted that the exemption would be given.

Our sole purpose in seeking the exemption is to be able to serve cocktails to private parties holding convention-related activities at the park, as was done by the previous owners of Sea World.

This will preserve the attractiveness of Sea World as a convention activity site for groups. We believe this is important for the park and for the tourism and convention business in San Diego.

One final point: The article admitted that it is not clear whether Gov. Pete Wilson owns Anheuser-Busch stock. Even if he does, the bottom-line contribution to Anheuser-Busch stock of selling cocktails at private Sea World functions at San Diego is insignificant--not even a fraction of a cent per share.

It is simply irrational to charge that the governor might gain a significant financial benefit by not vetoing the tied-house exemption.

C. MICHAEL CROSS, Executive Vice President, General Manager, Sea World

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