Tuesday, July 05, 2016 12:36:00 PM

City of Chicago Minimum Wage

Minimum Wage Ordinance

On December 2nd, 2014, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance that will raise the minimum wage for Chicago workers to $13 per hour by 2019. This measure, sponsored by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Will Burns, Alderman Pat O’Connor, and 31 other aldermen, will increase the earnings for approximately 410,000 Chicago workers, inject $860 million into the local economy, and lift 70,000 workers out of poverty.

In 2015, the City will begin phasing in its new minimum wage, as provided by the ordinance. This phase-in will help simplify the early years of implementation for businesses and employers. The City's ordinance raises the hourly minimum wage to $10 in 2015, $10.50 in 2016, $11 in 2017, $12 in 2018, and $13 in 2019, indexed annually to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) after 2019.

The ordinance also increases the minimum wage for tipped employees in from the current state minimum of $4.95 to $5.45 in 2015 and $5.95 in 2016, indexed annually to the CPI after 2016.

The full text of Minimum Wage ordinance is available HERE.

Implementation Timeline*

Effective DateNon-Tipped EmployeesTipped Employees
Current $8.25 $4.95
July 1, 2015 $10.00 $5.45
July 1, 2016 $10.50 $5.95
July 1, 2017 $11.00 Increases with CPI*
July 1, 2018 $12.00 Increases with CPI*
July 1, 2019 $13.00 Increases with CPI*
July 1, 2020 Increases with CPI* Increases with CPI*

* The ordinance provides that the minimum wage will not increase when the unemployment rate in Chicago for the preceding year, as calculated by the Illinois Department of Employment Security, was equal to or greater than 8.5 percent. The ordinance also provides that if the CPI increases by more than 2.5 percent in any year, the minimum wage increase shall be capped at 2.5 percent.

To Whom Does the Minimum Wage Ordinance Apply?

  • Employers: Employers that maintain a business facility within the City of Chicago and/or are required to obtain a business license to operate in the City are subject to the minimum wage ordinance.
  • Employees: Employees who work two hours in the City within the period of two weeks qualify for the minimum wage required by the ordinance. This includes domestic employees and home health care workers. A union may waive its members' rights to collect the minimum wage as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Time spent traveling in the City that is compensated time, including, but not limited to, deliveries, sales calls, and travel related to other business activity taking place within the City, counts toward hours worked; time spent traveling in the City that is uncompensated commuting time does not.

To Whom Does the Minimum Wage Ordinance NOT Apply?

  • Employees taking part in government-subsidized temporary youth employment programs.
  • Employees taking part in government-subsidized transitional employment programs.
  • Employees of any governmental entity other than the City.
  • Certain employees exempted under state law, including:
          1. Employees under 18 years of age. Employers are authorized to pay these employees a wage 50 cents below the state minimum hourly wage.
          2. Adult employees (i.e. those 18 years of age or older) in the first 90 days of employment. Employers are authorized to pay these employees a wage 50 cents below the state minimum hourly wage.
          3. Disabled employees, pending state approval.Trainees taking part in a program for no more than six months, pending state approval.
          4. Employees working at a business with four or fewer employees, not counting the employer’s parents, spouse, children or other members of the employer’s immediate family.

Other Employer Requirements

  • Employers that pay a covered tipped employee must make available at the request of the Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection substantial evidence that establishes: (i) the amount the employee received in gratuities during the relevant pay period and (ii) that no part of that amount was returned to the employer. If an employer is required by the state minimum wage law to provide substantially similar data to the Illinois Department of Labor, the Commissioner may allow the employer to comply with this requirement by filing a copy of the state documentation.
  • Employers with a business facility in the City at which a covered employee works must post notice at the facility of: (i) the City minimum wage and (ii) the employee’s rights under the ordinance. The Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection will prepare a form notice and make it available online to employers. Employers that do not maintain a business facility within the geographic boundaries of the City and households that serve as the worksite for domestic workers and home healthcare workers are exempt from this requirement.
  • Employers must provide with the first paycheck issued to any covered employee a form notice advising the employee of: (i) the City minimum wage and (ii) the employee’s rights under the ordinance. The Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection will prepare a form notice and make it available online to employers.
  • Employers may not discriminate or take any adverse action against any covered employee in retaliation for exercising any right covered under the ordinance.
  • Employers that violate the Minimum Wage ordinance will be fined $500 to $1,000 for each offense. Each day that a violation continues constitutes a separate and distinct offense to which a separate fine shall apply.
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Cannabis cocktail trend gathers pace 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016 12:32:00 PM

Source: the drinks business

by Lauren Eads

8th June, 2016


A US restaurant has launched a trio of cocktails laced with cannabis, highlighting a growing trend within the alcoholic drinks industry.


Jason Eisner's Sour T-iesel - a twist on a Tequila sour laced with CBD - an oil extracted from the Marijuana plant.


Crafted by Jason Eisner, head bartender at West Hollywood's Gracias Madre, the cannabis-infused cocktails contain CBD - an anti-anxiety property found in marijuana.


CBD, which can be bought in health food shops, is an oil that can be extracted from any part of the plant and is credited with helping to ease anxiety, minimise seizures and calm people experiencing psychotic episodes.


It is different from THC, which is extracted from the marijuana flower or 'bud' and stimulates a psychoactive effect. This compound requires a medical marijuana card to purchase legally.


Prior to Gracias Madre, Eisner worked with Los Angeles bartender Jaymee Mandeville at Drago Centro LA and held managerial positions at New York bars including Bubby's in Tribeca, Jerry's in Chelsea, and the Film Center Café in Hell's Kitchen.


His collection of $20 cannabis cocktails include the Stony Negroni, which is comprised of gin, Vermouth, Amaro Contratto Aperitivo (similar to Campari), a spoonful of port and a dash of CBD.


Sour T-iesel meanwhile is a twist on a Tequila sour, comprising Tequila, lime agave nectar, mint, sage leaves, Aquafaba (vegan equivalent of egg white), a dash of CBD and Matcha green tea powder dusted in the shape of a cannabis leaf.


Completing the line-up is the Rolled Fashioned, made with Bourbon, Mezcal Anejo, cinnamon, sarsaparilla syrup, Peruvian tree bark, vanilla bean, star anise and a dash of CBD. It's served with a vegan churro.


"This is culinary use, not recreational use or medical use. It's different and I think we'll be seeing a lot more of this in the future," said Eisner speaking to the Daily Mail. "For centuries, cannabis properties have been used for its healing qualities, but the weed has also been lumped in with cocaine and other hard drugs as something bad and psychotic.


"Now I think we're at a place in history where we can become educated about different parts of the plant, outside of what we've grown up with."


the drinks business reported on predictions of a cannabis cocktail trend earlier this year, which appears to be gathering pace.


Legal marihuana sales accounted for roughly US$7 billion in 2016, according to anecdotal initial estimates highlighted by Euromonitor's Spiros Malandrakis in recent analysis for the drinks business on the pros and cons of cannabis-laced alcoholic drinks.


"With conservative projections estimating a near fourfold increase in legal cannabis sales in the medium term, there is no question that the industry - still in its infancy - will soon become a much greater disruptor than the once ignored craft segment ever was," said Malandrakis.


Malandrakis cited Humboldt's Finest cannabis vodka from Redwood Spirits as an example - a spirit made with food-grade hemp from Oregon and currently only on sale in California and Colorado.


Earlier this year Colorado-based brewer Dude's Brews, announced its Canna-Beer series, which will feature a range of "CBD-rich, cannabis-infused" beers.


It came following the drug's legalisation in the state of Colorado in January.


More than two dozen US states have already decriminalised medical or recreational use of cannabis with that number expected to only rise further.


"It will begin with micro-brewers/ distillers and hemp," predicts Malandrakis. "The former will find it easier to experiment than sclerotic multinationals. The latter - naturally free from the controversial psychoactive components of marijuana - will provide an initial, flavourful embrace of the trend without risking legal repercussions."

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Chicago Restaurants Can Now Charge You A BYOB Fee 

Friday, June 17, 2016 4:51:00 PM

by Anthony Todd in Food on Jun 7, 2016 10:19 amChicago Restaurants Can Now Charge You A BYOB Fee

If a city commission changes a rule but doesn't actually tell anyone, did the rule change? That's the odd conundrum that WBEZ ran into over the course of the last week. They discovered that the city's stated policy on charging fees for bringing your own alcohol to restaurants wasn't actually the law—it was the result of an administrative mistake. Now, it's possible that your favorite restaurants might start charging you to bring in booze.

Here's the backstory: last week, Curious City did a report on why Chicago has so many BYOB restaurants. In creating that report, they looked at all the city documentation on BYOB restaurants, and that documentation had one thing in common: It said that city policy dictated that if a restaurant didn't have a liquor license, it couldn't charge a "corkage fee," or a fee to bring your own alcohol.

This rule makes some kind of sense. If a restaurant is serving high-profit-margin alcohol, the only way it will offset the loss from someone bringing in their own alcohol is to charge them a fee. If it doesn't serve alcohol, the restaurant is not really "losing" anything when someone brings their own bottle, though you do have to incur some costs to provide glasses and service.

Except, it turns out that this hasn't been the law since 2008. That's when the commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection apparently changed this rule, to allow restaurants to charge corkage fees. But no one ever updated any of the documentation that the city put out publicly, so as far as anyone knew, the rule didn't change. As of May, 2016, the old rule was still being published. At least until the department contacted WBEZ.

Even better, WBEZ found restaurants that got in trouble for charging a corkage fee, which was legal, except no one knew it was legal. What a mess!

Will this mean that diners will have to start paying a fee to BYOB? It'll depend on the restaurant. Some may decide that they can squeeze a little extra money out of diners, and even with the fee, it'll probably still be cheaper to bring your own. Others won't want to rock the boat. Especially because, now that this has become public, who knows if the rule is about to change again. Here's hoping that the city tells someone this time.

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Police officers, bar owners learn of new law 

Friday, June 17, 2016 4:49:00 PM


Spotting fake IDs, overconsumption discussed at Wildey

Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 11:18 am

Police officers, bar owners learn of new law By STEVE HORRELL The Edwardsville Intelligencer | 0 comments

The crowd filled nearly every available seat at the Wildey Theatre Wednesday morning, but it was a bit different than the typical Wildey crowd.

“It’s unusual that you have the licensed beverage people and the liquor commission working together on something,” noted Edwardsville Police Chief Jay Keeven who was on hand for the informational/training meeting.

The idea was to share information about new state laws that take effect July 1. 

“The two overriding things we’re discussing are how to check IDs and spot fake IDs, and how to stop overconsumption,” said Ted Penesis, during a break in his presentations. Penesis is the Industry Education Manager for the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. 

Other police officers from Edwardsville and Glen Carbon were on hand to hear the message as well.

But the message was aimed primarily at bar and tavern owners and to any of their employees who might be serving alcohol to the public. Also on hand were members of the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, a venerable trade group that lobbies statewide elected officials, state lawmakers, and the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. 

The ILBA, according to its website, represents taverns, restaurants, fraternal clubs, package stores, bowling centers, golf courses, hotels, gas stations, convenience stores and grocery stores.

“They see the value in training and keeping their membership out of trouble,” Keeven said of the ILBA’s presence at the Wildey. 

The new law requires those who serve alcohol where it is consumed to pass a basic test for what is known as BASSET certification. 

The new law took effect July 1, 2015 in Cook County. This year it takes effect on July 1 for counties with more than 200,000 people, which includes Madison and St. Clair counties. Next year it applies to counties with populations from 30,000 to 200,000. “Then, in 2018, it will be the little tiny counties,” Penesis added. 

After Wednesday’s presentation, Penesis was scheduled to hit the road for a presentation Thursday in Urbana. After that, it was on to Winnebago County for a Monday presentation. 

Keeven said a couple of his officers have already taken the certification training, 

The On-Premise Alcohol Certification Course can be taken online for about $15, he said. 

On Wednesday, Penesis also discussed penalties to servers who are caught selling alcohol to underage patrons and changes in the “happy hour” law, which went into effect on July 15, 2015.

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"Better Late Than Never"-- Judge in Illinois Dismisses 201 Sales Tax Cases against Retailers 

Friday, June 17, 2016 4:45:00 PM

Is This the End of the Road for Steve Diamond's One-Man Crusade to Become Wealthy from Suing the Wine Industry?

 Source: Hinman & Carmichael LLP

By John W. Edwards II and John Hinman

June 2, 2016

 We have been reviewing the progress of the Illinois "Whistle-Blower" sales tax on shipping fees cases for well over a year while the cases have been pending [Illinois Qui Tam Lawsuits - Private Enforcement of a State Claim: A Bonanza for a Plaintiff's Lawyer & a Rip-Off of Retailers; IL Attorney General's Office Announces Intention to Dismiss False Claims Act Against Liquor Retailers; IL Finally Offers Certainty & Relief for Victims of Sales Tax Lawsuits, but Prompt Action is Required in Pending Cases; Relief at Last! IL Moves to Fix the Sales Tax Lawsuits Against Out-Of-State Sellers But Proposes to Penalize Wineries & Retailers That Ship Without Permits].

 We are now pleased to report that the end of the line for the plaintiff appears to be getting closer.  The plaintiff Chicago law firm headed up by Steve Diamond had most of his cases against retailers dismissed last week. Diamond has been enriching himself for ten years through "settlements" with out-of-state producers and retailers (in recent years involving many producers and retailers of alcoholic beverages) by claiming a failure to pay sales taxes on shipping and handling charges paid by Illinois residents who purchase wine from out of state retailers and wineries for shipment to their homes, and then suing the producers and retailers on behalf of the state.   His scheme, at least as it involves retailers and producers without Illinois permits or licenses, may finally be ending.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan moved to dismiss 201 cases against out-of-state retailers in the trial court of Cook County.  The cases included many that were still "sealed," meaning that the State had not decided whether to intervene.  The Attorney General had previously moved to dismiss 350 other cases filed by Diamond.  The Attorney General's motion to dismiss these 201 cases asserted that that they were "unlikely to be viable.because the relator's [Diamond's] complaints contained no allegations that the defendants had any presence in Illinois that could establish tax liability." What this means is that without a state license or a state direct shipping permit (which establishes an agreement to submit to the jurisdiction of the state), or affirmative acts of marketing to Illinois residents, the seller was not doing business in Illinois and therefore could not be sued in Illinois. The motion was granted by the trial court on May 23, 2016.

Diamond opposed the Attorney General's motion.  The Court ruled, however, that Illinois law provides discretion to the Attorney General to dismiss qui tam (Latin for "whistle blower") cases brought on behalf of the State. The court said that the decision to dismiss can be overruled only upon a showing of "glaring bad faith" by the Attorney General.  Left unsaid, of course, was what the result should be when it is shown that Diamond has acted with "glaring bad faith."

Diamond can appeal the trial court's decision.  However, given the uniquely high standard of proof that Diamond must meet ("glaring bad faith" by the Attorney General), the prospects for a successful appeal appear bleak.  That is very good news for those that have been brought kicking and screaming into the Illinois courts by Diamond - their ordeal may finally be coming to an end!

Looking inside the decision of this court, however, we see the application of a principle that may protect retailers who are legally prohibited from obtaining direct shipping permits from states such as Illinois, as well as the wineries that ship wine purchased by their winery visitors to the buyers home without direct shipping permits (which is the case with many very small wineries throughout the US).  That is, if the seller doesn't (or is not permitted to) register with the state, and the seller requires the purchaser to be the party legally sending the wine to the address desired by the purchaser, then the receiving state doesn't have an adequate "nexus" (connection) with the out of state seller to assert liability for taxes. This also presumptively applies to other forms of liability (such as criminal or civil liability against the seller for assisting the state resident buyer's violation of the relevant direct shipping protocol).  This would certainly validate the common seller (retailers and wineries alike) practice of paying sales taxes on sales in their home state and putting the onus on the buyer to be responsible for taxes in the state of the buyer. This makes the common invoice admonition "title passes to the buyer at the winery (or the store)" a potentially very powerful legal protection.

However, this compounds the uncertainly that is currently playing out in states such as New York over initiatives to hold retailers (such as Empire wine in Albany) responsible for violating the laws of other states by permitting (or assisting) customers buying in New York to ship to themselves in other states. Did the Illinois court really find that Illinois has no jurisdiction over New York (or California, or other states) retailers or producers with customers from Illinois if the goods are actually imported by the buyer as a technical contractual matter? A strong argument can be made that this is exactly what happened on May 23rd (which, if true, may soon be known as direct shipping freedom day in Illinois).

The stakes continue to rise across the US as retailers, international producers and small wineries without direct shipping permits continue to accommodate consumer demand for their products by allowing consumers to ship wine to themselves regardless of where they live. Stay tuned because this Illinois battle is not yet over.  There is too much money in it for Diamond who, rumor has it, is very well connected politically in the Illinois capital.

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Illinois politicians reintroduce penny-per-ounce ‘sugary drink’ tax 

Thursday, June 09, 2016 1:33:00 PM

State lawmakers propose regressive tax on sugary drinks to help fill budget holes created by decades of irresponsible policies.

Some lawmakers in Springfield think they may have found a sweet solution to Illinois’ budget gridlock: taxing sugary beverages.

Instead of drafting proposals to reform the state’s broken workers’ compensation system or freeze its record-high property taxes, a group of lawmakers is suggesting taxing sugary beverages at a penny-per-ounce price as part of a new budget proposal. Revenue estimates for the tax range between $375 million and $600 million per year.

If this sounds like a familiar plan, it’s because it’s a recycled – and failed – plan from 2014.

Lawmakers in 2014 used the narrative of promoting public health to defend their revenue grab.

“Numerous studies have linked excessive consumption of sugary soft drinks to obesity,” state Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, said, according to a report by Lee Enterprises newspapers in 2014. “We as a state need to do a better job of educating the public and children in particular about this issue and the health risks.”

Springfield politicians have not learned much since then, proposing the same bad ideas with the same flawed logic.

Not only would this money grab fail to cure the state’s budgetary ills, it would not address public health concerns and would instead hurt struggling Illinoisans.

A 2013 Gallup poll found that 45 percent of people with incomes less than $30,000 drink regular (i.e., sugar-sweetened) soda, while one-third of those with incomes from $30,000-$74,999 drink regular soda, and just one-fifth of those with incomes higher than $75,000 drink it. The same poll showed that nearly twice as many nonwhite people drink regular soda as white people.

The tax is inherently regressive, much like other sin taxes politicians have gravitated toward to raise more revenue. The city of Chicago has seen firsthand the unintended consequences of sin taxes, as the Chicago City Council’s continued insistence on increasing tobacco taxes has led to a dangerous black market in the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

But that hasn’t changed thinking in Chicago either, as the city passed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to increase its highest-in-the-nation tobacco taxes again March 16. And just last year, Chicago, like Springfield, took a page from the playbook of New York City’s former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, whose soda regulations were ultimately overturned by the courts, when Alderman George Cardenas, 12th Ward, proposed what would have been Chicago’s third city-level tax on the sale of soft drinks, under the guise of promoting public health.

This idea of taxing citizens to promote better health is nothing more than a pretense to shovel money into the financial holes created by decades of bad public policy decisions. Politicians cannot tax Illinois’ way to better health habits and better budgets. But there is plenty Springfield can do right now to address the latter.

Lawmakers right now could pass legislation reforming Illinois’ uncompetitive workers’ compensation system. They could also work to pass a property-tax freeze in the Senate, and expand property-tax relief for Illinoisans across the state.

Structural reforms could ensure the state does not end up in fiscal crisis again down the road. Taxing sugary beverages won’t fix decades of financial recklessness, and this regressive proposal shows how averse many in Springfield are to changing the way the state operates.

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ICYMI: Denver Beer Bar Drops Craft Brewer's Brands; Cites Brewer's Push Into Retail 

Thursday, June 09, 2016 1:25:00 PM


Here’s an article about a prominent beer bar in Denver that has stopped carrying a craft brewer’s brands in part because of the craft brewer moving into the retail market as an on-premise competitor.

Falling Rock Owner's Angry Open Letter


Dear Client:


Since when did it become evil for craft brewers to be successful and grow? Even without a takeover from big brewers? Apparently that time is now.


A nearly two-decade relationship between two of Colorado's most prominent beer businesses is coming to an end. Chris Black, the owner of Denver's foremost beer bar Falling Rock, is apparently incensed by Oskar Blues Brewery's recent moves and has decided to part ways with the brewer, pulling their offerings from his tap lines.


Chris let his feelings be known on Facebook in an open letter to Oskar Blues that read, well, like a breakup letter.


If you've ever been on the brink of splitting up with a significant other you've undoubtedly had your boyfriend/girlfriend try to abruptly end things with that one word jab: "Bye." But you know that's not the end: often the phone rings again and your soon-to-be ex-partner rejoins with an "actually, you know what" and lists the reasons for their contempt.  


That's pretty much how this open letter goes.


Chris begins the letter with: "Bye." But he's compelled to explain his reasoning for the split.


He, like many, is still trying to figure out how the "differing methods of financing" in the beer landscape affect a brewery's craft status. He's sure one's craft card is revoked after selling to the "Industrobrewers," but for the other strategies [i.e., private equity], he thinks it's best "to play a wait-and-see game."


Evidently he's played the wait-and-see game long enough with Oskar Blues, and claims their "recent actions point towards a brewery" that "ISN'T craft"; so he wants "nothing to do with" them.


What are these actions Chris speaks of?


Well, Chris has a major issue with Oskar Blues' presence, or lack thereof, in state brewers guilds. He said their departure from the Colorado Brewers Guild left "a large hole" in the Guild's budget and finds it frustrating that they seemingly have no intention to join the North Carolina Brewers Guild or the Texas Brewers Guild and presumes it will be the same story in Florida.


"Yes, I know that not every brewery belongs to the Local and National Trade Organizations, just the ones that care about progressing the industry, want to protect it from the Industrobrewers, & want to be able to protect the small brewer's access to market," said Chris.


The other move grinding Chris's gears is Oskar Blues' recent announcement of a "Music Venue/Beer Hall in Downtown Denver." Indeed, Oskar Blues Fooderies announced last week its third project in 2016, a joint restaurant and music venue in the historic Market Center, serving "burgers, beer and live music."


The most infuriating part of this new endeavor for Chris is apparently the fact that it will hold 43 taps. "When you want to sell your own products, I am a huge supporter, when your primary goal is to sell other people's beers, I'm not so much in favor," Chris said. "That's kinda the job for the accounts out in the marketplace."


Chris noted that he has "LOTS of choices" when it comes to putting brands on tap at Falling Rock and he said he selects the ones "brewed by brewers that don't actively & directly compete with me." It may be "legal" for Oskar Blues to carry competitor's beers, but it "doesn't make it right," Chris said.


Staying true to the breakup format, Chris concludes the letter with a snide wish-you-well remark: "Have a terrific life driving your warehouse full of exotic cars." And a what-was-I-thinking comment, "I was your first account outside of your immediate area of Lyons. I've been a loyal supporter & account ever since. I feel like such a sucker."


OSKAR BLUES RESPONDS. Westword reached out to Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis for comment on Chris's "open letter." Oskar Blues is appreciative of Falling Rock's work with the brand, as Chad credited Chris as "an early adopter for Oskar Blues, and we want to thank him for playing the role that he did."


Still, they took issue with some of the comments expressed in the letter. Some of them seem flat out wrong: Chad said they are actually part of the Texas Brewers Guild, and explained that their departure from the Colorado Brewers Guild was due to "cost" and the "organization's direction." (Chad elaborated to us: there was a time Oskar Blues was the single largest contributor to the Colorado Brewers Guild (based on volume); Chad was also the marketing chair on a volunteer basis, and OB created Burning Can as a fundraiser for the Colorado Brewers Guild. "But as we've continued to grow and the Guild has continued to take on more and more breweries ... our needs and approach has changed, so we went a different direction." Seems within the range of a private company's rights to us.)


He contends that Oskar Blues has long been supportive of the industry and other breweries, saying they've "always been responsive and helpful, and that it supports the scene with its restaurants."


Where do they go from here? "We will continue to do the things we do. Opening restaurants and matching live music with craft beer is something [Oskar Blues Fooderies] likes to do and is in our DNA," said Chad.


IT'S THE SAME APPROACH, ACTUALLY, FOR THE FOODERIES OPERATION. We got Chad on the phone, too. He reiterated his thanks to Chris for being one of Oskar Blues's early adopters.


But as for Chris's ranting on what Oskar Blues has "become"? Let's not forget that Oskar Blues started as a restaurant in '97 itself, featuring local craft beer from the likes of Left Hand, which at that time made an Oskar Ale. In fact Dale grew up in the restaurant business, which his mom handed down to him.


Further, the Oskar Blues brewery and Oskar Blues Fooderies are technically two separate businesses, because, well, laws. When Dale founded Oskar Blues, it was actually called Cajun Grill Restaurant, then became a brewpub in 1999 -- the top producing brewpub in America, in fact. Then in 2008 they added the Longmont brewery, and when they did that, they transitioned the original Cajun Grill back to a restaurant as part of the then-developed Oskar Blues Fooderies group. Hence the separation of OB and OB Fooderies.   


To that point, this latest downtown Denver concept that Chris is apparently so pissed about (our words) is "the same concept Oskar Blues Fooderies opened in '97 and 2009 -- Homemade Liquids and Solids -- Oskar Blues Fooderies is just taking it to downtown Denver: 16th and market." In other words, it's the continuation of Fooderies' existing approach.


As for the exotic cars zinger: Chad pointed out that "from the time Dale started the restaurant in '97 on five maxed out credit cards, and had to sell his beat up Ford Ranger to make payroll every week and then buy it back after a good weekend at the restaurant -- I think everyone close to him knows that he likes American muscle cars, not exotic cars," Chad quipped.  


But to the heart of the matter: "I'm not sure what from a supplier standpoint, Oskar Blues hasn't done" for Falling Rock to upset them, Chad said. To wit, we didn't see him outline anything to that end in his Facebook rant.

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Thursday, June 09, 2016 1:23:00 PM

Three Years after Acquisition of Chicago-based Importer, González Byass Makes Its Market Presence Known

Source: Colangelo & Partners              

May 25, 2016

In August of 2013, Spain's González Byass, a family-owned producer of fine Spanish wines, Sherries and premium spirits, announced its acquisition of Chicago-based importer Vin Divino Ltd. Today marks the official change of Vin Divino's name to González Byass USA (; the United States is the fifth country where González Byass operates as an importer, along with Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany and Mexico. In addition, they have an import team in the Far East.

The decision to control its own distribution in key international markets is a major long-term strategy for the company.

González Byass USA's remainder of the portfolio includes wines from Italy, Austria, and France, and continues to grow. In 2015, the company began importing for three new French brands - Champagne Palmer, Leon Beyer, and Domaine de l'Arjolle - and continues to look to add wineries that are the best representations of their regions.


"The name change reflects the completion of the transition period between Vin Divino and González Byass' previous importer. We now have distribution control over the full range of the González Byass portfolio, and can focus solely on continuing to expand the company's presence in the market," says Len Nowicki, President of González Byass USA.

Coinciding with the name change, the distribution of González Byass' spirits portfolio has returned to González Byass USA with the following products: the Lepanto Brandy de Jerez range, the Soberano Brandy range, and Chinchón anise liqueur. González Byass USA will also continue to import The London No 1 Gin, which was launched in the U.S. market by Vin Divino in 2014. The company has continued to introduce several new products to the U.S. in 2016 as part of its continued push into the market, including: Nomad Outland Whiskey, which is aged in both Scotland and Jerez, and Beronia Rueda, a 100% Verdejo that is a result of the Rioja producer's expansion into Rueda. Focus products for the U.S. market continue to be Tio Pepe and the Sherries as well as Beronia Rioja.

"We have achieved a great deal over the past three years as a result of the relationship between Vin Divino and González Byass," says Board of Directors Chairman Mauricio González-Gordon. "The popularity of Spanish wine in the U.S. continues and we're very optimistic about the future of our business here."

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Losing to Craft Beer, Anheuser-Busch Starts Playing Dirty in Seattle 

Thursday, June 09, 2016 1:19:00 PM

A state investigation found the King of Beers skirting the rules to claw its way into Seattle's independent beer scene.


Source: Seattle News

By Daniel Person

May 18 2016


On Oct. 3, 2015, the rock band Overkill played the Showbox in downtown Seattle. But two of the people in the crowd weren't there for the thrash metal.


Rather, Jeanne Reschan and Kraig Seltzer wanted to see what beers the venue had on tap. To a casual observer, the offerings at the Showbox might look pretty diverse: A Goose Island from Chicago, a 10 Barrel from Bend, an Elysian from down the street, and, for the less adventurous, Bud and Bud Light.


However, to Reschan and Seltzer, the beer list raised a red flag.


Operating undercover for the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board, the officers were looking into allegations from a small brewer that accused Anheuser-Busch InBev of cutting a deal with the music venue to gain exclusive access to its bar, thus cutting off small competitors from a lucrative market. The night of the Overkill concert wasn't doing much to disprove the allegation: While Goose Island, 10 Barrel and Elysian have kept their own names and handles, they are today wholly owned subsidiaries of Anheuser-Busch. The aquisitions are part of the mega-brewer's attempt to get a cut of the huge craft beer market that was created in part to provide people an alternative to marginal offerings like Budweiser. On further inspection, Reschan and Seltzer counted 15 beers and hard ciders on tap or in bottles that were for sale at the Showbox that night. All of them were either partly or wholly owned by AB.


These findings were included in an evidence report charging AB with exerting "undue influence" on the Showbox, Showbox SoDo and Marymoor Park, all owned and operated by AEG Live NW, with food and drink services provided by Wolfgang Puck Catering. While a bar serving only one brewery's products is not in itself illegal, the state is charging that AB, working through a third-party distributor, entered into sponsorship contracts at the three venues to achieve a monopoly position, which does run afoul of regulations. Based on its findings, the state has fined AB $150,000. The complaint does not name AEG or Wolfgang Puck Catering as parties.


AB denied any wrongdoing during an informal hearing last week, meaning the case will be heard by an administrative judge some time this summer. However, whatever the outcome, the case clearly shows the effect AB's recent shopping spree of popular craft breweries could have on beer consumers and makers if left unchecked.


The state's investigation of AB's business practices comes as craft brewers across the country raise alarm at what appears to be large breweries' more aggressive marketing tactics after years of losing ground to small competitors. Last October, Reuters reported that the U.S. Justice Department was investigating charges that AB made deals with beer distributors that locked out smaller competitors. As Reuters put it, "Once AB InBev buys a distributor, craft companies say they find that they can't distribute their beer as easily and sales growth stalls."


"We are looking into a lot of these practices. This is a nationwide issue. Our director has gone to several states just to talk about these problems," says Jennifer Dzubay, a commander in the LCB's enforcement division. "Are we seeing it? Yes. I think it's becoming more prevalent everywhere in the United States."


To the consumer, though, these developments have been obscured by the fact that the corporation has so many beer labels to work with, a product of its ongoing efforts to purchase craft breweries across the country.


"With the big guys buying all the brands, it is hard to tell" when a single brewer takes over a bar, said Brian Smith, spokesman for the LCB. Regarding AB's monopoly at the Showbox, "I wouldn't know, and I drink beer."


According to the LCB complaint, in addition to the documentation provided by the undercover officers at the Overkill show, managers at the Showbox admitted that AB had exclusive access to its bars.


Posing as event organizers looking to rent the Showbox Sodo for a private event, one officer asked whether they could have Coors Light served. An employee at the venue "shook her head 'no' and said they had an agreement with Anheuser-Busch." The LCB says an investigation later turned up the agreement, which covered the Showbox, Showbox Sodo, and Marymoor Park through December 2016. In all, Dzubay says, the investigation took "five-to-seven months."


Dzubay says AB is not the only company trying to put this kind of pressure on bars. However, she says investigations into the claims are often frustrated by unspoken agreements that are common in the buddy-buddy world of beer distribution.


"What's difficult on the enforcement said is that there are often verbal contracts we don't see. We'll get complaints we'll dig into, but then we need someone to testify," she says. "We haven't closed a lot of these cases. We can't get the documents . or we don't have the testimony."


However, in this case the bar managers didn't seem to know the agreement with AB was not in line with state law, and so were more forthcoming than usual, Dzubay says.


While the case brought by the LCB pertains to a fairly arcane piece of alcohol regulation, Dzubay contends that practices uncovered by her division do hurt Seattle's beloved craft beer industry.


"There is some truth that the little guys have to fight harder because the big guys are paying to get in, buying their way into the market," she says.


As it happened, just prior to news breaking about the fine-first reported by Beer Marketer's Insights and verified through a public records request-Seattle Weekly spoke to Steve Luke, who was a brewer at Elysian but left to start his own brewery, Cloudburst, shortly after AB bought Elysian in January 2015. He noted that on a national scale, AB's attempts to corner markets through distribution and sponsorship deals speaks to why people should avoid their products.


"AB InBev has been bleeding for the last five to six years. They're bleeding to craft beer, which has been seeing growth. They would love to kill the craft beer industry and that's why people shouldn't be drinking their products," Luke says. When it comes to AB's purchase of small breweries, "They'll say, 'This is a way of getting this great beer to more mouths,' and that's bullshit to me. It's such a disingenuous veil."


We have a message into Anheuser-Busch's corporate media line for comment.


Update: After this story posted, a spokesperson for AB provided this comment by email: "AB does not agree with the allegations in the Notice. AB met with the state recently and will continue to respond to the Board in a timely manner."


Asked if anyone from AB would be available to elaborate on the case, the representative said the above is all AB would be saying about the matter at this time.

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Illinois: Amid Budget Deficit, Illinois Considers Taxing Sugary Drinks 

Thursday, June 09, 2016 1:18:00 PM

Source: AP


May 19, 2016


Lawmakers scrambling to find money to fix Illinois' multibillion dollar deficit are looking to sugary drinks as one potential source of revenue.


Taxing distributors of sodas, energy drinks and other sugary beverages was among the revenue-generating ideas a group of lawmakers proposed to Gov. Bruce Rauner and other legislative leaders last week to try to finally end a nearly yearlong impasse that's left the state without a budget.


Illinois is facing a $5 billion-and-growing deficit. Lawmakers are also considering raising the state income tax from 3.75 percent to 4.85 percent and making budget cuts as part of an overall deal Rauner wants contingent on getting pro-business, union-weakening reforms. And while a resolution to the budget stalemate remains elusive, those who support taxes on sugary drinks and the beverage industry are preparing for a possible fight on an idea that pops up frequently nationwide.


The proposal in Illinois would impose a penny-per-ounce tax on distributors of bottled sugar-sweetened beverages, syrups or powders. Estimates vary on how much the tax would bring in, from $375 million to $600 million a year.


Health advocates concerned about obesity rates and related illnesses like diabetes welcome the tax, while businesses say it would lead to job losses and pricier drinks.

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"This is a regressive proposal that will increase grocery costs for hundreds of everyday products and hit those who can least afford it, and it will also do nothing to improve public health outcomes," said Jim Soreng, executive director of the Illinois Beverage Association.


Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia also tax sugary-drink distributors, according The Council of State Governments. In Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenny is proposing a 3-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary-drink distributors to help pay for preschool programs, park renovations, and other initiatives. Health advocates in Boulder, Colorado are also trying to ask voters in November to tax distributors.


With the tax in Illinois, the additional cost to distributors would be passed on to consumers and Soreng said the price of a three 12-packs of soda would jump from about $11 to nearly $17.


But supporters of the tax say discouraging consumers from buying sugary beverages is the whole point.


"If we can reduce the cost of health care, overall that's a benefit to the economy," said Elissa Bassler, CEO of Illinois Public Health Institute and executive director of the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity.


In Illinois, 28 percent of adults were considered obese in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 20 percent of children in the state are obese, the Illinois Department of Public Health said.


"It is no different than how we look at the detrimental effects of cigarettes," said Chicago Democratic Sen. Donne Trotter, one of the legislators proposing the idea of a sugar tax. "It makes an impact on all of us."


Illinois lawmakers have proposed the tax for years without much momentum, but this time might be different, said another lawmaker behind the proposal.


"I think as the hole in our budget becomes deeper, the need to look for various sources of revenue brings the bill closer to realization," said Rep. Robyn Gabel, an Evanston Democrat.


Bassler said she hopes lawmakers use all of the revenue from the tax to help fund Medicaid and health initiatives to reduce obesity rates.


But the same reason the tax has momentum now makes it less likely lawmakers would use all the money for health programs. Gable said she expect most of the money would go into the state's main checking account.

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