COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ An Ohio liquor law that forbids using Santa Claus to promote alcohol has taken a bite out of an Anheuser-Busch beer campaign featuring Spuds McKenzie in Santa garb.

The Ohio Department of Liquor Control gave Anheuser-Busch until Thursday to remove Bud Light beer cartons bearing pictures of the bull terrier adorned in a red cap, jacket and mittens.

Department spokesman Vicky Gelety said Anheuser-Busch has promised to cooperate.

But a spokeswoman for Heidelberg Distributing in Cincinnati, which distributes Anheuser-Busch products in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas, said the company had been told cartons that had already been distributed could remain on the shelves.

''Retailers have not been told to pull it,'' said Heidelberg's Lee Oberlag. ''We have not been told to pull it.''

She said that under normal conditions, the supply already on store shelves would last through Christmas. But she acknowledged the cartons in question could move earlier than that.

''I mean, as it turns out, it's going to be a real collector's item,'' she said.

Scott Anderson, who has been designated Spuds' spokesman, said Tuesday in St. Louis that he had not heard of the problem and would have to look into it.

Ms. Gelety said it would be up to the Ohio Liquor Control Commission to determine whether any penalties should be imposed on the brewer or distributors of the 12-pack cartons.

Ms. Gelety said this is the first time Spuds, who also promotes Bud Light on television commercials, has run afoul of Ohio liquor rules. But she said she knows many school officials and others have objected to T-shirts and other beer promotions that appeal to youngsters.

''I think he's cute, too, but I have a 12-year-old nephew who has a Spuds McKenzie shirt and I'm not sure I like that,'' Ms. Gelety said.