News

Local Investor Group to Buy 60% Stake in Schlafly Beer 

Friday, January 06, 2012 11:42:30 AM

Source: Beer Advocate

Wednesday, January 04

The Saint Louis Brewery, Inc., brewer of Schlafly Beer has signed a purchase agreement that will transfer a 60% ownership interest in the business to a local investor group led by Wes Jones and John Lemkemeier of St. Louis and including David Schlafly, also of St. Louis, the first cousin of Tom Schlafly, Co-Founder and President of the company. The agreement provides for closing upon issuance of necessary licenses and permits from federal, state and local governments, a process that could take several months.

Tom Schlafly said, "The agreement with Wes and John meets the criteria we set back in June of 2010, when we first discussed a succession plan for ownership of the brewery. Senior and long-term employees will be able to purchase stock in the company; and I'm transferring a majority interest to local investors committed to keeping the business in St. Louis."

Mr. Schlafly will initially retain an interest of approximately 20% and serve as Chairman of the Brewery. Dan Kopman, Co-Founder and current Chief Operating Officer, will own at least a 10% interest and serve as Chief Executive Officer. Ten percent (10%) of the business will be available for purchase by eligible employees.

Mr. Jones said, "We are highly impressed by the business Dan and Tom have built over the past 20 years and the outstanding beers they produce under the Schlafly label. Added Mr. Lemkemeier, "We look forward to Dan and Tom's continued leadership of St. Louis's largest locally-owned brewery. We also welcome the Schlafly employees' having the opportunity to participate in the ownership of the business they have helped to build."

Mr. Kopman said, "I'm very pleased by what Wes, John and their investor group bring to the table. Their focus on joining with management teams in long term investments in successful businesses makes them the right partner for us."

The Saint Louis Brewery, Inc. has been producing fine craft beers in St. Louis since 1991 and recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. It sold over 42,000 barrels of beer in 2011, representing growth of more than 20% from the prior year. In 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, Schlafly was the 42nd largest craft brewery in the United States.

 

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Restaurants brace for minimum wage hikes 

Tuesday, January 03, 2012 5:00:53 PM
Increases hit eight states Jan. 1, Washington state wage rises to $9 per hour
Source: NRN
By Lisa Jennings
January 2, 2012
Eight states saw minimum wage increases Jan. 1, and Washington became the first state to break through the $9 per hour minimum pay threshold.
Wage hikes tied to cost-of-living increases are scheduled for Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Colorado posted the lowest increase, with a 28-cent uptick per hour to a state rate of $7.64. The highest threshold is in Washington state, where the 37-cent-per-hour increase this year raises the minimum hourly wage to $9.04. Washington has had the highest state minimum wage since 1998, when voters adopted legislation tying the rate to the Consumer Price Index, or CPI.
Bruce Beckett, vice president of government affairs for the Washington Restaurant Association, said the state's wage rate has gone up every year since, except in 2009.
During boom times, the increases had less of an impact on business, Beckett said, but this year restaurants in Washington are expected to feel the pain of the additional 37 cents - especially as Washington is one of eight states without a tip credit, meaning the state does not allow employers to use a lower hourly wage rate for employees that garner compensation through tips.
In a recent survey of its members, the Washington Restaurant Association found that almost 70 percent of roughly 450 businesses said they would have to reduce hours or shifts, cut employees or drop benefits as a result of the increase in labor costs in 2012.
"Only a handful said they felt they could deal with the minimum wage increase with [increased] menu pricing," he said.
Washington has, on average, about three fewer employees per restaurant compared to the national average, which Beckett attributed to the higher minimum wage in the state.
The National Employment Law Project, or NELP, a non-profit research group that advocates for higher minimum wage rates, contends that the increases through eight states in 2012 will create jobs for the economy. NELP said the wage hikes will add between $582 and $770 per year to the wages of full-time workers in the eight states, a move that will lead to an additional $366 million in U.S. gross domestic product and create the equivalent of more than 3,000 full-time jobs.
"These very modest increases are not job killers," Paul Sonn, NELP's legal co-director in New York, said. "They're not even real increases, these are really cost of living adjustments."
In municipalities, the minimum wage is highest in San Francisco, where the rate is scheduled to reach $10.24 in 2012, up from the 2011 rate of $9.92. Like Washington State, California does not allow a tip credit.
Officials in Santa Fe, N.M., however, reportedly may soon take the top spot for the highest minimum wage requirement. The rate there may go up to as much as $10.32 an hour on March 1, to make up for not raising the rate in 2011. The amount of Santa Fe's minimum wage increase is expected to be announced in mid-January, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the annual cost of living index for 2011.
 
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2011 Average Spending on Gasoline Sets Record 

Tuesday, January 03, 2012 4:57:53 PM
CSP Daily News | January 3, 2012
2011 Average Spending on Gasoline Sets Record
Oil analysts predict $4 gas this spring, $100 crude oil 

 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With holiday travel over, the typical American household spent about $4,155 filling up in 2011, a record, according to a report from the Associated Press. That is 8.4% of what the median family takes in, the highest share since 1981.
Gasoline averaged more than $3.50 a gallon in 2011, another unfortunate record. And next year isn't likely to bring relief.
In the past, high gas prices in the United States have gone hand-in-hand with economic good times, making them less damaging to family finances. Now prices are high despite slow economic growth and weak demand.
That's because demand for crude oil is rising globally, especially in the developing nations of Asia and Latin America, according to the report. But it puts the squeeze on the United States, where unemployment is high and many people who have jobs aren't getting raises.
The trap has caught Michael Reed of Charlotte, N.C. He hasn't been able to find work since he lost his computer-support job in 2009. Now high gas prices are claiming more of what he has left. He and his wife didn't exchange gifts this Christmas.
"I try to drive as little as possible so it doesn't take such a chunk out of my wallet," he told AP.
In 1981, when the economy was sliding into recession and oil prices were high because of Middle East turmoil, gas ate up 8.8% of the typical family budget, Fred Rozell of the Oil Price Information Service told AP.
Over the past decade, gas has taken up 5.7% of the family budget. If families had spent only 5.7% this year, they would have saved $1,300.
For 2011, gasoline averaged about $3.53 per gallon. That's 76 cents more than last year. It's 29 cents per gallon more than 2008, when gas last set an annual record of $3.24. That year, the price of oil hit a record in the summer but collapsed when the financial crisis struck in the fall.
Besides leaving families less money to eat out and go to the movies, high gas prices take a disproportionate toll on consumer confidence. People are more aware of small changes in gas prices because they drive past the signs all the time.
And a buck spent on gas has less bang in the economy than, say, a dollar spent at a restaurant, according to the report. The U.S. is an oil-importing country, so many of the dollars spent on gas ultimately leave the country instead of being invested here in new ventures and jobs.
James Hamilton, an economics professor at the University of California, San Diego, who studies energy prices, estimates that high gasoline prices reduced economic growth by about 0.5% for the year, a substantial hit for an economy only growing at an annual rate of about 2%.
Relief from high gas prices is nowhere in sight, though. Ed Morse, head of commodities research at Citibank, expects oil to average $100 per barrel next year, which would eclipse 2011's average of about $95 per barrel.
Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at OPIS, told AP he expects gasoline prices to approach $4 per gallon again next spring.
Drivers are keeping gas guzzlers in the driveway, combining trips and buying more efficient cars. Compared with the year before, American gas consumption has been down every week for more than nine months, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, a spending survey.
Source: CSP Daily News
 
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Fake Alcohol is Rare in the US  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 5:27:23 PM
Source: Public Action Management
by Pamela S. Erickson
Dec 13th
Have you ever noticed that there are no stories about counterfeit alcohol in the United States?
Yet, it seems to be a major problem elsewhere.
In February, the BBC was quoted as saying "Up to a quarter of licensed premises in some parts of the UK have been found to have counterfeit alcohol for sale." It was also noted that alcohol fraud costs the UK about 1 billion pounds per year in lost revenue. (Feb. 15, 2011, "Fake alcohol on sale in many UK off-licenses.") More recently five people died in an explosion at a suspected illegal distillery in the UK, four people died of counterfeit alcohol in Turkey and 21 were killed in Ecuador; and, 22,000 bottles of counterfeit product were confiscated by Chinese authorities.
The United States made policy decisions to put bootleggers and gangsters like Al Capone out of the alcohol business when Prohibition was repealed and those policies are still working today. I was director of a state alcohol regulatory agency in the US for seven years and I don't recall a single case of counterfeit alcohol. Even spoilage occurred rarely - and those products were quickly recalled and pulled from the shelves. The reason for this situation is our "three-tiered regulatory system." The United States has a closed distribution system which prevents adulterated and contaminated products from reaching the consumer. In the U.S. we require that alcohol go from a licensed manufacturer to a licensed distributor to a licensed retailer. The businesses in each tier are separately licensed and no manufacturer can own or have a financial interest in a retailer. Many states also prohibit ownership between all three tiers.
Distributors have major regulatory responsibilities. They collect the excise tax on alcohol and are responsible for tracking all products. Because of the tracking system, spoiled or recalled products can be quickly identified and pulled. As a regulator, I appreciated the fact that these regulations were not expensive to enforce. Because distributors visit retailers regularly, they do notice a product that they did not supply. It is their obligation to immediately report such products to the regulatory agency. Under this system, it would be very difficult for a retailer to systematically sell counterfeit or untaxed products. And, a distributor is unlikely to jeopardize their license by offering a fake product to a retailer. As the United Kingdom and other countries grapple with alcohol regulation, the lessons learned by the United States should be considered by policy-makers. While lost revenue is a problem, the consequences of consuming counterfeit alcohol can be quite serious. Illegal products often contain high levels of methanol. Methanol is not fit for human consumption and can cause blindness or death. Public safety needs to be the first consideration when considering changes to alcohol regulation.
 
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Traffic Deaths Fall to Lowest Level Since 1949 

Thursday, December 15, 2011 12:05:43 PM
Traffic Deaths Fall to Lowest Level Since 1949
Source: New York Times
By TANYA MOHN
Dec 9th
America's traffic safety numbers are in for 2010, and they are, with some qualifications, good. Last year, the rates of roadway fatalities and injuries fell to their lowest recorded levels and to their lowest numbers since 1949.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Thursday that the updated 2010 fatality and injury data showed that highway deaths fell to 32,885 for the year, the lowest level of annual traffic fatalities in more than six decades.
The decline was notable, the department said, because it occurred in a year when American drivers traveled roughly 46 billion more miles than they did in 2009.
"While we have more work to do to continue to protect American motorists, these numbers show we're making historic progress when it comes to improving safety on our nation's roadways," Secretary LaHood said in a statement.
The rate of road fatalities in the United States has been trending downward for five years, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Bella Dinh-Zarr, the North American director of Make Roads Safe and director of road safety for the FIA Foundation for the Automobile and Society - nonprofit groups that work for safer roads worldwide - says the trend, while positive, is not an invitation to complacency. "The message is, even though this is wonderful news, there is still more to do," she said in a telephone interview on Friday.
The figures for 2010 released by N.H.T.S.A. indicate that fatalities declined in most categories, including those for occupants of cars and light trucks, which included sport utility vehicles, minivans and pickup trucks. And deaths in crashes involving drunken drivers dropped 4.9 percent, claiming 10,228 lives compared to 10,759 in 2009.
 
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Illinois: Anheuser-Busch's push to keep control of distribution may leave it dry in Illinois 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 2:21:27 PM

Illinois: Anheuser-Busch's push to keep control of distribution may leave it dry in Illinois

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission is considering whether Anheuser-Busch Cos. should have to divest its 30 percent ownership of Chicago-based City Beverage based on a new law that prohibits big breweries from distributing their own products in the state

Source: Chicago Tribune

By Ameet Sachdev

December 14, 2011

Anheuser-Busch Cos.' hard-fought attempt to gain more control over its distribution in Illinois has taken a twist that could burn the beer giant.

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission is considering whether Anheuser-Busch should have to divest its 30 percent ownership of Chicago-based City Beverage, one of the country's largest beer wholesalers, which distributes Budweiser products in the Chicago area.

Anheuser-Busch last year tried to buy the 70 percent of City Beverage it didn't already own to improve its sales and profitability in the Chicago area, where it is No. 2 in market share behind MillerCoors LLC. Ironically, that potential transaction set off a chain of events that could force Anheuser-Busch out of the distribution business in Illinois.

Anheuser-Busch blames competitors for instigating a regulatory review of its minority interest in a distributor when none was called for.

"This is their attempt to limit competition and maximize their financial gain at the expense of the marketplace," Gary Rutledge, the company's vice president and North American general counsel, said in a statement.

Competitors say Anheuser-Busch has nobody to blame but itself.

In 2010, the company, the St. Louis-based brewing unit of Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, informed Illinois regulators that it intended to buy out City Beverage, which has four distribution operations in the state. Anheuser-Busch has been allowed to distribute beer in Illinois since 1980 and had acquired 30 percent of City Beverage, which was majority-owned by Detroit-based Soave Enterprises.

But the Illinois liquor commission blocked the deal to preserve the state's three-tier system that separates alcohol manufacturers from distribution and sales to consumers. Anheuser-Busch took the matter to court, noting that several Illinois microbreweries distribute their own beer and that keeping the company out of the distribution business discriminated against out-of-state brewers. (In the meantime, Soave sold its stake to BDT Capital in November 2010.)

A federal judge sided with Anheuser-Busch this year and ruled the state law was discriminatory. But the judge denied the company's request to remedy the law by granting out-of-state brewers the right to distribute their own products in Illinois. Instead, the judge left it to the General Assembly to clarify the state's distribution rules.

Legislators responded by banning in-state and out-of-state brewers from self-distribution. They granted limited distribution rights to microbreweries.

Based on the new law, three trade groups, the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association and the Beverage Retailers Alliance of Illinois, argue that it is illegal for Anheuser-Busch to hold even a minority interest in City Beverage. They requested a special hearing before the liquor commission, which was held Dec. 7.

At the hearing, the groups argued that the liquor commission should not allow Anheuser-Busch's stake to be grandfathered into the current law when legislators did not provide such relief. They were supported by the Wine and Spirits Distributors of Illinois and several beer distributors that deliver MillerCoors products.

"In this industry, highly regulated as it is, nothing is forever," said Morton Siegel, an attorney who represents nine MillerCoors distributors and spoke on their behalf at the hearing.

Anheuser-Busch said the legislative changes do not affect its right to maintain its stake in City Beverage.

"We have asked the Illinois Liquor Control Commission to stand behind its previous decisions regarding our minority interest," Rutledge said.

The chief legal counsel for the agency has advised commissioners that the law would support a ruling that Anheuser-Busch is no longer permitted to hold a 30 percent interest in City Beverage.

If the commission follows the opinion of its legal staff, the decision on Anheuser-Busch could affect other brewers in Illinois. Two Brothers Brewing Co. in Warrenville started its own distributorship because it could not find wholesalers to carry its products. Two Brothers maintains a close relationship with Windy City Distribution. Calls to both businesses were not returned.

The liquor commission is expected to complete its review early next year.

 

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Starbucks introducing beer and wine concept to Chicago cafes next 

Tuesday, December 06, 2011 6:05:34 PM
Starbucks will add beer, wine and small plates like almonds and bread with olive oil dip at five to seven stores in Chicago next year.
Source: Seattle Times
By Melissa Allison
Dec 5th
After selling wine and beer in a handful of Northwest stores for the past couple years, Starbucks is taking the concept to Chicago.
It will add beer, wine and small plates like almonds and bread with olive oil dip at five to seven stores in Chicago next year.
The idea started at a Starbucks location on Capitol Hill in Seattle, which the chain remodeled and opened in 2009 as 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea.
The store has reverted to the Starbucks name, but wine and beer remain on the menu there and at Starbucks cafes at Broadway East and East Roy Street, in Madison Park near CEO Howard Schultz's house and in Issaquah. There's also a Starbucks selling beer and wine in Portland.
And Starbucks plans to eventually sell wine and beer at a cafe that will open in January in one of Amazon.com's new headquarters buildings in South Lake Union.
They start selling wine and beer at 2 p.m. and have posted double-digit sales growth after 4 p.m., said spokesman Alan Hilowitz.
"It's something our customers have really been responding to," he said. "They want to sit and relax, and maybe one person wants to have coffee and the other wants beer or wine. People also can go out after work without having to go to a bar, and people who are underage can go and have a cup of coffee instead."
The coffee chain will roll the concept out selectively, but does not plan to offer beer and wine in all its stores. "It's got to fit the neighborhood," Hilowitz said.
 
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Beverage Retailers Celebrate Anniversary of Repeal of Prohibition; 

Monday, December 05, 2011 5:57:42 PM
 
Bethesda, MD - December 5, 2011 - On this theseventy-eighth anniversary of the repeal of America's failed thirteen-year experiment called Prohibition, licensed beverage retailers continue to uphold their longstanding legacy that began before Prohibition and has continued to flourish to this today under the three-tier system established following the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment on December 5, 1933. 
 
"On Repeal Day, it's important to both remember the dark days of Prohibition and celebrate the establishment of our vibrant, diverse and well-balanced industry based on a three-tier system that has served Americans to great success over the last seventy-eight years," said John D. Bodnovich, ABL's Executive Director.
 
Local taverns and package liquor stores have played an important role in the development of American hospitality and the country's communities.  Now they hold an important role in the American economy providing an untold number of people with their first job.  Many of these businesses continue to be family-owned and operated just as they have been since the repeal of Prohibition.
 
Just as with their businesses, beverage licensees' participation in trade associations at the national level also extends back to the repeal of Prohibition.  The National Liquor Stores Association was formed in 1935, just 15 months after the repeal of Prohibition.  Its on-premise sibling, the Associated Tavern Owners of America, was founded just 11 years later in 1946.
 
Despite the failings of the "noble experiment" of Prohibition and the rightful place that beverage alcohol has held in American culture for hundreds of years, beverage licensees continue to guard against the return of Prohibition in any form.  That means supporting sensible drunk driving policy that does not make it illegal to have a glass of wine at dinner, a beer at a barbeque or a cocktail at happy hour and then drive home. 
 
It also means fighting tax increases that penalize middle class and lower-income Americans and their ability to enjoy their favorite beverage alcohol products; providing unparalleled education, customer service, and access to tens of thousands of beer, wine and spirits products; supporting locally-owned bars, taverns and package liquor stores and the people they employee; and making sure that the views of those who seek to marginalize the good work of the hospitality industry are sufficiently debunked.
 
"Beverage retailers often view themselves as the last line of defense for the hospitality industry and are proud to man that post," said Bodnovich.  "They are the last in the industry to handle beverage alcohol products and can have a great influence on how those products are used.  But they also have the most to lose when the responsible use of beer, wine and spirits is under attack.  As we become further removed from the Prohibition era, it becomes increasingly important to remind ourselves, our friends and neighbors just what a terrible mistake it was so that we never make it again."
 
 
 
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New alcoholic drink Blast may appeal to teens 

Monday, December 05, 2011 5:43:24 PM
Source: RRSTAR.COM
STAFF REPORTS
Posted Dec 02, 2011
Rockford Health and Human Services officials today issued an advisory telling parents and the community about a new malt liquor beverage that is packaged colorfully and could appeal to teenagers.
Blast by Colt 45 is made by the Pabst Brewing Company. It contains 12 percent alcohol and packaged in single 23-ounce cans, according to the release.
"The brightly-colored product with flavors such as blueberry pomegranate, strawberry lemonade, grape and raspberry watermelon are targeted toward younger consumers," the release states. "The rapper Snoop Dogg promotes the drink which has been nicknamed 'binge in a can' on Internet ads."
A 2010 Illinois Youth Survey indicated that 39 percent of Rockford high school seniors reported using alcohol in the past 30 days. Additionally, 20 percent of them reported driving while drinking alcohol and more than a quarter of them reported "binge" drinking in the past two weeks.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan urged Pabst Brewing Company to decrease the alcohol content in Blast.
"Alcohol abuse among young people is a serious and alarming epidemic," Madigan said in a news release. "A product like this only serves to glamorize alcohol abuse and promote binge drinking, threatening the safety of those consuming it."
 
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New Cook Co. budget with alcohol tax hike approved 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 1:19:09 PM
Source: ABC Local
Friday, November 18, 2011
Cook County commissioners overwhelmingly approved a $2.9 billion budget that raises alcohol and other taxes.
The budget upholds a pledge by board president Toni Preckwinkle to eliminate a previous sales tax increase.
16 of the 17 commissioners backed the budget. Chicago Democrat Bill Beavers dissented.
Taxes will rise on alcohol, cigars, and loose tobacco. The county's tax on purchases of new cars and boats also increases.
County courthouses will impose a new $4.75 daily parking fee, but it will be waived for jurors, early voters, witnesses, and law officers.
The Cook County Board met all day Friday on the budget. Unlike the City of Chicago, where aldermen meet in smaller committees to hammer out details of their budget, the Cook County Board meets as a committee of the whole to amend Preckwinkle's budget proposal.
Friday's final budget meeting was true to form; it took the 17 county commissioners seven hours to debate 64 amendments before the document was passed out of committee.
Preckwinkle, negotiating her first budget, reduced the number of layoffs needed as part of her budget balancing act to fewer than half the 1,000 layoffs she suggested several weeks ago.
"Our negotiations with our labor unions and our negotiations with various members of the boards of commissioners have substantially reduced the potential layoffs, but I think we're still around a little more than 400," said Preckwinkle.
The $2.9 billion county budget for 2012 is about $500,000 less than the county budget was about five years ago, so spending has certainly decreased in Cook County and will continue to decrease next year.
 
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