COMMENTARY: Utah's move to drop DUI level to .05 will make criminals out of social drinkers 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 4:27:00 PM

Source: Review-Journal

By Sarah Longwell Special to the Review-Journal

April 2, 2017

 Utah has officially become the first state in the country to lower the blood-alcohol arrest level from .08 to .05 - and more states will certainly follow.

 While such a move is unlikely to save lives, it will inflict serious damage on restaurants and others in the hospitality and tourism industries by criminalizing perfectly responsible behavior. Why would someone interested in a ski vacation choose Utah over Colorado or Montana if they fear being arrested for having a single drink after a day on the slopes before driving back to their hotel?

 Utah has a unique relationship with alcohol, namely that a majority of its residents have never had a drink.

 Restaurants that serve alcohol in Utah have been subjected to odd regulations such as the "Zion Curtain" which mandates that bartenders must mix drinks out of sight and away from patrons. It was also the first state to lower its legal limit from .10 to .08 back in 1983.

 It is for exactly this reason that the National Transportation Safety Board - the main advocate for lower legal limits - identified Utah as the most attractive laboratory for its lower legal limit experiment.

 In fact, it was a University of Utah driving simulation study that showed a driver is more impaired talking on a hands-free cell phone than driving at the current legal limit of .08.

 According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 70 percent of Americans admit to driving while talking on a cell phone. And yet, Utah is going to start arresting people for behavior that impairs them far less than this ubiquitous and socially acceptable behavior.

 And who will they be arresting? A 120-pound women can reach .05 after little more than a single drink. If she drives, despite the absence of real impairment, she will be subject to jail time, fines, increased insurance costs, license suspension, and an ignition interlock. Not to mention the social stigma.

 It is because .05 laws defy both science and common sense that the largest anti-drunk driving advocacy organization in the country, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, has declined to support efforts to further lower the limit.

 Advocates of .05 routinely point to Europe as an example the United States should follow. All European countries have a limit of .05 or lower. But one critical distinction is these countries have much lower drinking ages than we do. The United States is one of only 11 countries, including Iraq and Oman, which have a minimum drinking age of 21. Most European countries with a .05 legal limit also have minimum drinking ages between 16 and 18 years old.

 Rather than examining a European model not commensurable with traffic safety in the United States, let's understand the nature of alcohol-related fatalities occurring on American roadways.

 According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, nearly 70 percent of alcohol related traffic fatalities happen at a .15 BAC or above.

 The average BAC of someone in an alcohol-related fatal crash is .19 - almost quadruple the new .05 arrest level in Utah. That's nearly eight drinks in an hour for a 160-pound man. Conversely, only 1 percent of highway fatalities occur between the disputed interval of .05 and .08, making dubious any claim that a lower limit would save thousands of lives.

 Hard-core drunken drivers are responsible for the vast majority of alcohol-related carnage on our roads, and common sense should dictate that our anti-drunken driving policies focus on this cohort rather than a woman having a glass of wine with dinner.

 It's a mistake repeated over and over again by those in the traffic safety community - targeting moderate social drinkers with more restrictive laws instead of the heavily impaired. It's the reason that drunken driving fatalities have stubbornly remained around 30 percent of overall traffic fatalities for the past 20 years, even after lowering the legal limit to .08.

 If we want to save lives on our roads - and we all do - we should focus on solutions that target the real problem. Utah already went off the cliff, but this time around, the rest of the country should resist following its lead.

 Sarah Longwell is the managing director of the American Beverage Institute.

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ABL Honors 18 Beverage Retailers at Annual Meeting 

Monday, April 10, 2017 11:03:00 AM


Brown-Forman Retailers of the Year Recognized for Their Continued Commitment to the Beverage Alcohol Industry

 April 7, 2017 - Bethesda, MD - Eighteen beverage licensees from across the United States were recognized as Brown-Forman Retailers of the Year at the 2017 ABL Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nominated by their state beverage associations for their success and dedication to the beverage alcohol industry, these business owners were honored in a ceremony at the ABL Honors Gala on March 27, 2017.

For more than two decades, the Brown-Forman Retailer of the Year awards have celebrated independent retail beverage business owners who engage in responsible sales and service of beverage alcohol, and who are committed to their state beverage associations.  ABL congratulates all of the honored businesses and licensees for their outstanding and continued contributions to the industry and their communities.

"Independent beverage retailers support a dynamic and spirited industry, while also promoting and encouraging the responsible sale and enjoyment of beer, wine and spirits," said ABL Executive Director John Bodnovich. "It is in this spirit that they are recognized with this award before their industry peers and held up as examples of success."

 Brown-Forman, one of the world's leading distilled spirits producers, has remained a steadfast sponsor of the awards, recognizing the importance of vibrant independent alcohol retailers, and continuing their support of those who are the last to handle beverage products before they reach the hands of consumers. In attendance to present awards to this year's recipients was Michael Rasp, Brown-Forman's Nevada State Manager.

"We are grateful to work with Brown-Forman in honoring responsible beverage retailers across the country," Bodnovich added.



Pictured Left-to-Right: Bill Asbury | Mark A. Brown | James F. Castellani | Richard R. Laczkowski | 

Mike Scheuerman | Carolyn Joy | Michael Rasp (Brown-Forman) | Debbie Mayfield | Mike Maro | 

Sean Barry | Mike Harris | Neil Caflisch | John Cutter | Mickey Daniel

The 2017 Brown-Forman Retailers of the Year Include:

John Cutter & Mickey Daniel

Windmill Beverages

Athens, AL

Dan Grider

Sky Bar

Auburn, AL

Carolyn Joy

Joy Wine and Spirits

Denver, CO

Mark A. Brown

The Wine Shop at Parkaire

Marietta, GA

Wesley Morgan

Liquor World

Richmond, KY

Richard R. Laczkowski

McSki's Place

Watseka, IL

Don Rix

Big Red Liquors

Indianapolis, IN

Mike Scheuerman

Friendship Wine & Liquor

Abingdon, MD

Mike Harris

Harris Crab House

Chester, MD

Sean Barry

Four Seasons Wine & Liquor

Hadley, MA

Victor Pittman

Silver Leaf Wines and Spirits

Madison, MS

Bill Asbury

Buck Eye Bar

Bridger, MT

Mike Maro

Maro Brothers

Hainesport, NJ

James F. Castellani

The Wine & Liquor Outlet

Lockport, NY

Debbie Mayfield

Bergheim Cellars

Boerne, TX

Neil Caflisch

Square Tavern

Baraboo, WI

Brian "Alf" Grzegorczyk

Alf's Pub & Package Liquor

Cheyenne, WY


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ABL Brings Together Beverage Retailers from Across the United States for 15th Annual Meeting 

Monday, April 10, 2017 10:55:00 AM


CONTACT: Matthew Evans

American Beverage Licensees


ABL Brings Together Beverage Retailers from Across the United States for 15th Annual Meeting


2017 Meeting Provided Informational Sessions & Recognition of Beverage Retailers



April 6, 2017 - Bethesda, MD - Beverage retailers and their partners from across the hospitality industry came together in Las Vegas on March 26-28 for American Beverage Licensees' (ABL) 15th Annual Meeting.  Attendees networked with their peers from around the country and learned about emerging issues in the beverage alcohol industry.  Meeting speakers addressed a variety of important topics including the issues facing the wholesale tier, emerging trends in the beverage alcohol sector, mobile alcohol ordering platforms, music licensing, the growing recreational cannabis marketplace and legislation, and state alcohol policy initiatives.


"The diversity of this year's annual meeting program recognized the range of ABL member businesses from across the country," said ABL Executive Director John Bodnovich.  "From urban to rural, large to small, on-premise to off-premise, there was something from the meeting that all attendees could take home to use in their businesses, state associations and with elected leaders."


Eric Dopkins, CEO & Founder of Milestone Brands, LLC, delivered the keynote address about the keys to growth in the beverage alcohol industry and how best to position one's business for success.  The wholesale tier was represented at the meeting by Craig Purser, President & CEO of the National Association of Beverage Wholesalers, and Craig Wolf, President & CEO of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, who provided attendees with an overview of where the wholesale tier currently stands important industry issues and where wholesalers are working with retailers.


Senior Vice President of the Beverage Alcohol Practice at The Nielsen Company, Danny Brager, made a presentation about current and emerging trends in the retail environment, which covered various trends shaping the beverage alcohol sector, including Direct-to-Consumer sales and the growing number of places consumers can purchase beverage alcohol.


Following the Annual Luncheon sponsored by MillerCoors, the meeting delved into three important issues for beverage retailers: mobile alcohol ordering, music licensing and recreational marijuana.


The mobile alcohol ordering conversation featured Bryan Goodwin, Senior Vice President - Commercial Sales & Operations at Drizly, and Brad Rosen, CEO & Founder of Drync, who provided attendees with information on how their respective businesses operate, what their entry into the marketplace means for retailers, and how the they can work together with retailers.  Steve Bene, General Counsel at Pandora Media, Inc., shared his perspective on the current state of music licensing, what it means for retailers, and the various challenges and opportunities that lay ahead when it comes to legislative and legal actions. 


In a session titled "Seeds of Change: The Emerging Cannabis Marketplace & What It Means for the Beverage Alcohol Industry", Vivien Azer, Managing Director & Senior Research Analyst at Cowen & Company, provided an in-depth economic analysis of the growing cannabis industry and market trends - from investment standpoints to interplay with the existing beverage alcohol market and its key players.


The ABL Annual Meeting closed its general session with a focus on state policy issues.  New Jersey State Senator Nicholas Scutari discussed his months-long research effort to identify effective recreational marijuana policy measures, including looking at parallels to the alcohol industry's regulatory framework.  In a presentation titled "Alcohol Policy: State of the States", the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association's Steve Schmidt, Senior Vice President - Public Policy & Communications, and Neal Insley, Senior Vice President & General Council, discussed various alcohol policy related issues currently taking place at the state level, and the implications some of these issues may have at the national level.


The 2017 Annual Meeting also provided an opportunity for ABL to recognize those who make a difference in the industry.  Seventeen retail beverage businesses from across the country were recognized with the 2017 Brown-Forman Retailer of the Year awards at the ABL Honors Gala.  Also recognized was the 2017 ABL Top Shelf Award honoree, Tito Beveridge, Founder & Owner, Tito's Handmade Vodka. The ABL Top Shelf Award recognizes those who have demonstrated excellence over their careers in the beverage alcohol industry and represents the highest recognition given by ABL.


The ABL Board of Directors also elected four beverage licensees to the ABL Executive Committee during the Annual Meeting. These individuals, each serving two-year terms, will lead the association towards meeting its strategic goals and initiatives. The new officers include:

  • President: Steve Morris | Jorgenson's Restaurant & Lounge | Helena, MT
  • Vice President Off-Premise: Paul Santelle | Garden State Discount Liquors | Perth Amboy, NJ
  • Vice President On-Premise: John "JJ" Moran, Jr. | Four Winds Liquor & Lounge | Cheyenne, WY
  • At-Large: Robert "Bubba" Sprenger | Bubba's | Marion, WI

ABL also thanks it 2017 Annual Meeting sponsors: Bacardi USA, Inc.; Beam Suntory; Brown-Forman; E. & J. Gallo Winery; Infinium Spirits; Milestone Brands, LLC; MillerCoors; National Association of Beverage Importers; The Presidents' Forum of the Distilled Spirits Industry; Serralles USA; Texas Package Stores Association; and Tito's Handmade Vodka.



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Illinois: Suburban lawmaker, distillery push law to bypass liquor distributors 

Monday, April 10, 2017 10:50:00 AM

Source: Daily Herald

March 25, 2017


On a busy night, a bar across the street from Fred Robinson's small suburban distillery might call asking for a quick delivery of a few extra bottles of whiskey, rum or gin.


State law, however, prohibits Robinson from filling that order.


Instead, Robinson, co-owner of Copper Fiddle Distillery in Lake Zurich, and all other hard liquor manufacturers must go through a distributor to get their products into Illinois bars, restaurants and retailers.


"It could be a week or two before they get restocked over there," Robinson said.


That doesn't make sense to Robinson, and now a suburban state lawmaker is taking his case to Springfield.


Under a bill introduced by Republican state Sen. Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods, Robinson and others in the fast-growing craft distillery industry could deliver a limited amount of their own products rather than work through distributors.


McConchie, whose district includes Copper Fiddle, said he wants to make it easier for the small distilleries to grow. His bill, he said, has gained bipartisan support in the Capitol.


The measure would allow distilleries that produce a maximum 100,000 gallons a year to deliver up to 25,000 gallons annually to bars, restaurants and stores.


McConchie expects self-distribution to create additional sales and increased production by the craft distilleries, leading to more state and local tax revenue. Liquor distributors would benefit in the long run if small distilleries across the state grow, he said.


"Once they're big enough and they're shipping lots of product," McConchie said of the craft distilleries, "it makes total sense for (distributors) to step in and be able to do what they do best."


The bill would provide similar self-distribution opportunities for distilleries that craft breweries received in 2011. State law allows small breweries to distribute a maximum of 232,500 gallons on their own if their production doesn't exceed 930,000 gallons.


Illinois' growing craft distillery industry is helping drive the distribution issue, McConchie said.


The state now has 31 craft distilleries, with 20 in Chicago and the suburbs, according to the state liquor control commission. There were 19 small distilleries in early 2014.


While distributors typically deliver national alcohol brands to retailers by the case, Copper Fiddle co-owner Jose Hernandez said sometimes he just wants to get a few bottles on a shelf. The business still would use a liquor distributor in most instances, but having the self-delivery option would allow him to get products out faster locally, he said.


Not all small distilleries are on board with McConchie's proposal to amend the state's 83-year-old liquor control act.


Paul Hletko, founder of Few Spirits in Evanston, said craft distillers could wind up working against each other. Illinois' longtime three-tiered system of producers, liquor distributors and retail establishments works well, he said.


"I can't overemphasize the value of the distributor," Hletko added. "Because distributors exist, it allows distillers to focus their efforts on distilling and growing and building the brand, rather than trying to make deliveries."


Karin Lijana Matura, executive director of the Wine and Spirits Distributors of Illinois, said officials from the nonprofit trade association plan to meet with Copper Fiddle's owners "to try and determine what their additional needs are."


"Until we have a better understanding, we will reserve comment on our position on (the proposal)," she said.


Jeff Walsh, founder of Oppidan Spirits in Wheeling, said he does not envision self-delivering his business' offerings, such as American botanical gin and malted rye whiskey. However, he said, it would be good to have the option if a distributor suddenly stopped carrying his products.


"It would be nice, at least in the short term, to be able to service your accounts," Walsh said.


Numerous suburbs already are supporting McConchie's proposal through the Lake County Municipal League and Northwest Municipal Conference. Lake Zurich village board members also went on record in support by passing a resolution March 20.


"The village seeks to support small business owners as a crucial component of fostering a vibrant local economy," Lake Zurich Mayor Thomas Poynton said, "and creating sustainable, destination-type establishments for the community to enjoy."

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Utah: Herbert signs bill lowering blood-alcohol limit to .05 percent 

Monday, April 10, 2017 10:47:00 AM

Source: Deseret News

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue

March 23, 2017


Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday signed the controversial bill that lowers the legal blood-alcohol limit to .05 percent, stressing repeatedly it is an issue of public safety.


Herbert said earlier in the day during his monthly press conference on KUED Ch. 7 that the decision came after thorough research and in consultation with multiple stakeholders.


The governor said he will call a special session in August or September, however, "to address the unintended and collateral consequences" of the law, which will be the first in the country to lower the standard for impaired drivers from .08 percent when it takes effect Dec. 30, 2018.


"I don't believe the legislation is finished. We will still need more thorough consideration on how this new standard is applied," Herbert said, adding that the issue will be taken up during interim legislative meetings in which the public will have an opportunity to be heard.


"Anything is on the table for consideration," he said, including pushing "pause" and waiting for other states to drop to a similar limit.


"I know there seems to be some reluctance to be first in the nation, although I would remind everybody we were first in the nation to go from .10 to .08 percent," he said, and the rest of the country followed suit.


Herbert said GOP leadership is on board for a special session, where lawmakers can explore options for invoking a two-tiered system or graduated penalties for someone who tests at .05 percent, among other possible changes to the measure.


The bill's sponsor, Rep. Norm Thurston, R- Provo, said he is open to changes to HB155.


"If there are issues that need to be addressed, whatever timeline (Herbert) choses, I would be supportive of that," he said.


Herbert's announcement that he will sign the bill provoked disappointment from the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association, whose executive director Michele Corigliano predicted the lower limit will put independent restaurant owners out of business because their operational margin is already so slim. People will stay home to have a drink with dinner rather than risk the law, she said.


"Obviously, we are very disappointed that he is going to sign this bill despite public outcry," Corigliano said, adding that calls to Herbert's office from people were 10-1 against the measure.


"We feel like the unintended consequences of this bill will far outweigh the merits," she said. She did say her organization will work in "good faith" with lawmakers as changes to the bill are consider.


Although his office has been "inundated" with calls and the state targeted as punitive in a national advertising campaign by the American Beverage Institute, Herbert said his first charge as governor is to keep residents and visitors safe.


"Everybody agrees that public safety has got to be at the forefront of what we decide to do when we develop policy. Really, the role of government is, in fact, to make sure that we have safety - in our neighborhoods, on the streets and the things we do in life," Herbert said.


He later added that be believes lowering the legal blood-alcohol limit is good policy.


The governor insisted the lower limit in Utah does not make Utah "weird."


He pointed out that 85 percent of the world's population currently lives in countries with laws that have .05 percent blood-alcohol limits or less, including France and Italy.


Herbert bristled at the suggestion that the law is a religious or Mormon issue because of the state's predominant religion that encourages its members not to drink alcohol.


"There's not many Mormons in Rome and they're doing it there also," he said.


Herbert said the lower blood-alcohol content limit may be an opportunity for the state to take its "brand" and push the message that tourists can visit Utah and enjoy a place that has a crime rate half the national average and safer streets.


One local business leader is confident the measure will not be a long-term detriment to area commerce. Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber - the state's largest business commerce organization - said some of the same concerns were raised years ago when the state lowered the blood-alcohol level from .10 to .08.


"We had a lot of people say, 'This will destroy Utah's economy. No one will want to come here,'" he said. "(The bill) doesn't stop drinking, it stops drunk drivers. That's where the business community has been more supportive of the issue."


He said the evidence-based presentations made by public safety officials during the legislative debate were very convincing, which is part of why the measure gained so much traction.


"The only impact (this measure is) really going to have in the long-term is that you'll find many other states looking at the same (safety) information (and) in just a few years, it will be the standard across the country," Beattie predicted.


But Beattie's prediction flies in the face of claims made in an extensive advertising campaign launched by the American Beverage Institute, which took out full-page ads Thursday in both Salt Lake City daily newspapers and USA Today.


The advertisement asserts the law creates a new class of criminals - responsible adults who drink moderately.


It shows a booking mug of a woman whose crime was "had one drink with dinner." At the top, the advertisement reads, "Utah: Come on vacation, leave on probation."


Herbert pointed to another advertisement with a contrasting message by brewer Heineken that features race car driver Jackie Stewart. Stewart is repeatedly offered a drink, but refuses because he's still driving.


"The essence is if you are going to drink, don't drive," Herbert said.


Boyd Matheson, president of the Sutherland Institute, applauded the governor for his decision.


"Opponents of HB155 are attempting to make this law about Utah's public image - about limiting the choices of citizens and visitors to the state. HB155 will have no impact on what or how much individuals drink - it is focused on protecting lives by ensuring those who choose to drink also choose not to drive impaired."


But critics like the American Beverage Institute's Sarah Longwell said Utah's move to the lower limit will criminalize moderate drinkers, hurt tourism and divert law enforcement eyes from the hardcore drinkers who are the real danger on the streets.


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Illinois: Illinois legislation would allow minors to drink in restaurants 

Monday, March 20, 2017 4:26:00 PM

Source: Herald-Whig

By Matt Dutton

Mar. 14, 2017


Quincy restaurant owners are unsure about the ramifications of a bill that would allow older minors to drink in their restaurants.


If approved, Illinois House Bill 0494 would permit minors ages 18 to 20 to legally consume alcohol in restaurants when accompanied by their parents or legal guardians.


"It's kind of shocking, actually," said Ron Frese, owner of Pops Pizza, 936 Maine. "I'm curious whether it will be up to the restaurant to decide whether or not they will do it. Isn't the restaurant going to be liable for that young kid?"


Frese views the bill as essentially promoting or encouraging underage drinking.


House Bill 0494 excludes hard liquor, permitting minors to partake in only beer or wine. It also specifies that alcohol cannot be the "principal business carried out on those premises," which would eliminate bars and taverns from the equation.


"It's definitely a negative, but it doesn't surprise me in Illinois anymore," Frese said. "It probably would help business with the drinking side of things, but I don't know if that's a positive business or not."


Even if it becomes legal, Frese said he would not feel comfortable serving a minor in his restaurant. The bill does not specify whether compliance with the law would be up to the discretion of the business owner.


"I don't know who comes up with these ideas, but it was working perfectly well the way it was," said Mark Neiswender, owner of the Patio, 133 S. Fourth. "That's not a good way to do this. I think they should just keep it at 21."


The bill was sponsored by two Chicago-area legislators, state Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-64, and state Rep. Kelly Burke, D-36.


"If it that's the law, I would abide by that," Neiswender said. "The kicker there would be how much have they had."


Neiswender said that although he will follow the new law if it goes into effect, he hopes the bill does not pass.


"I'm up in the air on this," said Rod McClean, who owns and operates several local restaurants, including the Abbey, Kelly's, Tower Pizza and Mexican, and Gem City Pizzeria and Mexican.


At Kelly's, with a slightly older clientele, McClean said he doubts the law would affect the restaurant much if approved.


The bill has been assigned to the Tourism, Hospitality and Craft Industries Committee and has been amended three times since being filed Jan. 20. No vote has been held.

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Monday, March 20, 2017 4:22:00 PM

Data reflecting 52 weeks ending 12.3.16

According to Nielsen CGA, 2016 was a year of heightened competition & battle for share...

Source: Nielsen

March 15, 2017


On premise is a complex, fragmented yet valuable market for the beverage alcohol industry.  Dominated by independently owned and operated restaurants and bars, the on premise is fast moving, challenging but highly profitable.  It remains the home of trial and experimentation with a strong correlation between frequency of on premise visits and willingness to trial new brands.

Within on premise, Wine's recovery at the back end of 2016 pushed its 52-week sales trend into positive territory for the first time in a year. 

Beer is hindering on Total BevAl performance. In 2016, main category growth came through Imported beer brands and smaller Craft.  Accordingly, Beer lost 0.7pp dollar share of on premise beverage alcohol sales to Spirits in 2016. If this trend continues through 2017, Spirits will replace Beer as the most valuable on premise mega category by the end of this year.

This highly competitive market brings a need for operational excellence.  On Premise Chains make 20-25% of (highly profitable) revenue from BevAl - However, most focus heavily on the food element of their offer - leaving On Premise Chains at risk of losing sales due to factors such as: non-optimal assortment, less than compelling pricing strategies or an overcrowded bar or back bar leading to confusion and difficult 'navigation'.

Scott Elliott, SVP Nielsen CGA commented, "2016 showed that while the on premise has its challenges, it remains a highly profitable channel where people are most open to trial and experimentation.  We remain convinced that there is a big opportunity for suppliers and wholesalers to better advise retailers in addressing the challenges of customer confusion, poor assortment planning and missed sales opportunities due to less than compelling pricing strategies.  The very first step to this is for suppliers to actually understand the profile, preferences and behaviors of a retailer's customers.  Without this retailer-specific insight it is virtually impossible to offer BevAl solutions that are exciting, encourage repeat visit and result in greater spend per visit."

2016 Beer Performance:

It's been a mixed year for Beer.  Top-line sales deteriorated over the duration of 2016, ending the year with volumes down -1.9% and dollar sales down -0.7% versus 2015.  Some segments performed well in 2016, though.  Import's 2016 volume sales were 4.8% higher than in 2015, driven primarily by the runaway success of Mexican beer (+9.5%).  Domestic Super Premium was the fastest growing subsegment last year, experiencing volume gains of 8.6% against the previous year.

Craft, which until recently had been the main source of Beer sales growth, performed less spectacularly in 2016.  On premise volumes were up 1.0% - a significant overperformance relative to Total Beer, but far from the stellar growth of recent years.  Craft is maturing, and its larger brands have a challenge to reconcile a large market share with the spirit of the craft movement.

Per the very large Nielsen CGA On Premise Consumer Survey, a third of craft beer drinkers feel that being too widely available prevents beer from being classified as craft.  Indeed, dollar sales of mature craft brands (> 1% share) are down -1.9% since Jan 2015, while maturing (> 0.1%) and newbie (< 0.1%) craft brands are up 6.8% and 11.8% respectively.

2016 Wine Performance:

Wine's recovery at the back end of 2016 pushed its 52-week sales trend into positive territory for the first time in a year - FY 2016 volumes were up 0.1% vs 2015, while dollar sales increased by 0.9%.  Although Sparkling Wine had been the main growth engine throughout much of 2016 it was a resurgent Table Wine segment that helped drag Wine over the line.

Sparkling Wine's best months came in H1 2016, softer performance in H2 saw the full-year volume trend rest at 5.4%, down from 6.4% in 2015.  Conversely, Table Wine's quarterly volume trends remained negative for H1 but  remained positive throughout H2, growth that culminated in 2016 volumes reaching near-parity with 2015 (-0.3%).

2016 Spirits Performance:

Spirits has been the top-performing mega category in the on premise throughout 2016, with FY volume sales up 1.3% versus 2015 (dollar sales up 3.1%). Of course, these gains were not experienced equally across all the Spirits categories.

Vodka and Whiskey, which together constitute more than half of on premise Spirits sales, had volume increase by 1.6% and 1.7% respectively in 2016.  Drilling down a level further still, it was Unflavored driving growth in Vodka (+2.3%) as Flavored Vodka continues to suffer from a proliferation of extensions in recent years.  Irish Whiskey is the main driver for category growth within Whiskey - volumes were up 12.6% in 2016.

Tequila and Cognac were the big winners of 2016.  Tequila, which last year added 240,000 9L case sales to its 2015 volumes, has been buoyed by the performance of high-end, 100% agave tequilas in 2016.  Cognac, which has been in double-digit growth through the year, increased sales by an extra 120,000 9L cases in 2016, largely due to gains in the VS segment.

At the other end of the spectrum Cordials has struggled throughout 2016 - full-year volumes down -3.4% versus 2015, making it the worst-performing category by some margin.  Its long-term momentum is more promising though, since 2015 volumes were down -4.4% on the previous year.


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Op-ed: Problems of lower alcohol limit are many, and the advantages are non-existent 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 3:57:00 PM

Source: Salt Lake Tribune

By Sarah Longwell

Mar 10 2017


Pending Gov. Gary Herbert's signature, Utah will become the first state in the nation to lower its legal drunk driving threshold from 0.08 to 0.05 blood-alcohol content.


Unfortunately, the new law is unlikely to save lives. However, it is sure to ruin some.


A 120-pound woman can reach the 0.05 limit after little more than a single drink. Under the new law, if she drives, she can be arrested and subject to jail time, social stigma, thousands in fines and legal fees, increased insurance costs and the installation of an ignition interlock.


Harsh consequences would be permissible if this woman were impaired at 0.05, but she isn't. A University of Utah driving simulation study showed that a driver is more impaired talking on a hands-free cellphone than she is at the current 0.08 legal limit. Consider how often you talk on your phone in the car. Now consider that someone far less impaired than you are while talking on your Bluetooth will be arrested for DUI. It defies logic and common sense.


Then there's the damage this new law will inflict on the tourism and hospitality industries. Why would people choose a ski vacation in Utah over Colorado or Montana if they fear getting arrested for having a drink after a day on the mountain before heading back to their hotel? Utah already has a reputation for strict and quirky alcohol laws, but this new law will put it even further outside the mainstream.


As for restaurants, a lower legal limit introduces a whole new set of problems. There's the obvious issue of revenue. If most patrons are afraid to have anything to drink if they're going to be driving, then not only won't they order a drink with dinner, but eventually they may simply decide it's better to forgo a night out altogether.


But that isn't all. There's also the issue of alcohol server education programs. Restaurants have programs to train servers on responsible alcohol service. They are taught to spot patrons who are legally drunk to keep them from getting out on the roads. How is a server supposed to identify someone who is now legally drunk at 0.05, but shows no signs of impairment?


Bartenders and servers won't be the only people finding it hard to identify impairment. Highway patrol members who look for drunk driving indicators and administer sobriety field tests will also struggle with the new mandate. At 0.05, a driver won't exhibit the tell-tale behavior of drunk-driver-like weaving between lanes or making illegal turns. And he or she will have no trouble standing on one leg (assuming it's something he or she knows how to do in general) and walking in a straight line.


The damage to Utah's hospitality and tourism industries wouldn't be such a bitter pill to swallow if this law were going to have a serious impact on saving lives, but there's no evidence that will be the case. Most drunk-driving fatalities in Utah - a full 77 percent - occur at levels above 0.15 BAC. The average BAC of someone in an alcohol related fatal crash is 0.20 - four times the new legal limit. Only around 1 percent of traffic fatalities happen between 0.05 and 0.08. If you want to save lives, you have to target the real problem.


Of course Utah legislators want to save lives - we all do - but they missed an opportunity to truly target the drunk-driving problem by considering legislation that targets the hardcore drunk drivers who cause the vast majority of alcohol-related fatalities in Utah. Instead, they passed feel-good legislation that will criminalize perfectly responsible behavior while having no impact on extreme drinkers.


It's for this reason that the largest anti-DUI advocacy group in the country, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, declined to support the legislation.


It's clear that the state's unique relationship with alcohol played a significant role in passing this law so quickly and decisively. The National Transportation Safety Board-the main advocate for 0.05 laws-saw an easier legislative path in Utah than in other states.


Supporters of the legislation said it was time for Utah to "lead" on the issue of drunk driving. But when a law is as poorly thought out as 0.05 is, it's unlikely other states will follow.


Sarah Longwell is the managing director of the American Beverage Institute.

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The New Reality for Retailers: Is Consumer Choice at Risk? 

Monday, March 13, 2017 2:29:00 PM

Source: NBWA

MAR 9, 2017

America's independent beer distributors love their independent retailer customers. In many markets, small and independent retailers and beer distributors are some of the last family-owned and local businesses operating on Main Street. When independent retailers and local beer distributors are united on building brands, delivering consumer choice or advocating before the state legislature, great things happen.

Independent beer distributors are dedicated to the brewers of the beers they distribute. This includes brewers ranging from the largest, global, iconic brands to the newest, smallest, most local brewers. Much of the excitement in the beer category is driven by the innovation, energy and new products generated by thousands of emerging brewers across the country.

I've heard more than one beer distributor say that craft beer has made selling beer "fun" again. Beer distributors take immense pride in their ability to help small brewers get established, grow these craft brands and celebrate in their partners' successes. And sampling at the brewery has become one way that brewers can introduce their products to thirsty consumers. 

But as more and more brewery-owned retailers are established, and as breweries' direct-to-consumer sales continue to grow, the competitive landscape is being upended. In some states, brewers are aggressively expanding their retail privileges from their brewery location to stand-alone, non-brewery taprooms or tasting rooms. And these modern-day "tied houses" are often exclusive outlets, selling only alcohol products that they own.

The consumer, with $20 in their pocket, may have previously gone to an independent bar or restaurant for a burger and a beer or two. Now that same consumer can go to the local brewery taproom or brewery-owned retail establishment for beers and a complete dining experience. These taprooms are increasingly serving as competitors to licensed, independent retailers.

So is there anything wrong with this? That is up to policymakers in state capitols.

But imagine if this rationale were applied by global alcohol giants like Anheuser-Busch InBev, Diageo or Gallo? Competition would slow as these giants grew market power at the expense of brand building beer bars.

Beer industry overall sales are traditionally flat to up 1 percent. However, the fastest growing sales in the beer industry have been sales outside the three-tier system, specifically beer sold on brewery-owned premises.

The largest international brewers have noted this small brewer trend and are now doing the same thing. Anheuser-Busch InBev has bought numerous craft breweries in the last couple years and all of them have taprooms, which makes the company the fastest growing taproom brewery. Constellation's Ballast Point has noted plans for increased retail operations. And now Diageo is getting in on the game with a reported Guinness taproom slated to open in Maryland.

The open system of independent distribution and retail beer sales has been an unparalleled success, providing record choice to U.S. consumers and access to market for all brewers. Is that now all at risk?

The blurring of the lines between who is a brewer and who is a retailer presents both a business and political challenge for beer distributors and independent retailers. Retailers are distributors' customers, and brewers are their suppliers. Distributors' retail customers are losing sales and are not happy that their suppliers are no longer their partners but now are competitors. The common agreement that the three-tier system is the best path to the consumer is being challenged. Suppliers see money in bypassing the distribution and retailer tier, despite the long-term implications.

As independent retailers face this issue, they must be bold in telling their story. Thousands of Main Street jobs. Local investments. Access to retailers for all breweries. Consumer choice including a wide variety of brands. And long-lasting community partnerships. Independent retailers have a great story to tell.

The stakes are high, and independent retailers need to act to support the open and independent distribution system that serves consumers so well.

National Beer Wholesalers Association President & CEO Craig Purser provides industry commentary each quarter for ABL Insider, a publication of American Beverage Licensees (ABL), a national trade association for retail alcohol beverage license holders across the United States. Each column provides insight on issues of concern to beer distributors, their retail partners and others in the alcohol beverage industry. To learn more about ABL Insider, please visit

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Utah: Utah lawmakers pass toughest DUI limit in U.S. at 0.05 percent 

Monday, March 13, 2017 2:27:00 PM

Source: Chicago Tribune

Michelle L. Price

March 9th

Utah could soon have the strictest DUI threshold in the nation after state lawmakers on Wednesday night voted to lower the limit for a driver's blood-alcohol content to 0.05 percent, down from 0.08 percent.

The measure heads to Utah's governor, who has said he supports the legislation.

If Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signs the bill, it would take effect Dec. 30, 2018 - an unusual effective date for Utah laws that would ensure the harsher standard is in place before alcohol-laden celebrations on New Year's Eve.

Supporters of the legislation said it would save lives by keeping people off the road if they've been drinking. A mix of lawmakers, including Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans, opposed the measure. Some cited concerns that it could hurt tourism as the heavily Mormon state grapples with its reputation as an unfriendly place for drinkers.

The proposal would mean that a 150-pound man could get a DUI after two beers, while a 120-pound woman could get one after a single drink, according to the American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade group that opposes the bill. A number of factors, including how much food is in someone's stomach, could impact how much a drink will raise someone's blood-alcohol content.

American Beverage Institute Managing Director Sarah Longwell said in a statement Wednesday night that the proposal will do little to make roads safer because more than 77 percent of alcohol-related traffic deaths in Utah come from drivers with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 and above. "Utah legislators missed an opportunity today to target the hard-core drunk drivers who cause the vast majority of drunk driving fatalities and instead decided to criminalize perfectly responsible behavior," Longwell said.

Lawmakers in Washington are considering lowering the limit for blood-alcohol content this year, while a similar proposal recently died in Hawaii's Legislature.

Across the country, the blood-alcohol content limit for most drivers is 0.08, but limits vary among states for commercial drivers or drivers who have had a past DUI conviction.

Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, who sponsored Utah's measure, said it's important because a person starts to become impaired with the first drink. He notes a number of foreign countries have blood-alcohol content thresholds at 0.05. or lower.

At a blood-alcohol content of 0.05 percent, a driver may have trouble steering and have a harder time coordinating, tracking moving objects and responding to emergencies, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

For several years, the National Transportation Safety Board has encouraged states to drop their blood-alcohol content levels to 0.05 or even lower, though local officials have not adopted the standards, in part because of pressure from the hospitality industry.

The tougher stance on DUIs comes as Utah legislators passed changes Wednesday easing other liquor laws that deal with the preparation of alcoholic drinks in restaurants. That measure, waiting for approval from the governor, would let diners see their drinks being poured or mixed if restaurants set up child-free buffer zones around bars

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