By: Craig Purser, NBWA President & CEO
Throughout May, the National Beer Wholesalers Association has been recognizing the 62nd Annual Tavern Month, a celebration of the licensed bars and taverns that help fuel excitement in the beer industry and enrich America’s social culture.
As Main Street businesses, bar and tavern owners partner with America’s 3,300 independent, licensed beer distributors in communities across the country to contribute to local economies; support hundreds of thousands of jobs; invest in local communities; and deliver unparalleled choices of beer to millions of customers every day.
The economic contributions of local, independent bars and taverns are significant on many levels. According to economic analysis and strategic planning firm Civic Economics, local, independent retailers have twice the recirculation impacts on their local economies when compared to nationally-owned chain retailers because of the dollars these local retailers spend directly in their communities and with other area businesses.
Beer distributors help taverns operate profitably. By warehousing, selling and delivering a record number of beer brands, beer distributors work with taverns to better understand markets and tailor beer choices for consumers. Distributors’ sales expertise helps taverns create point-of-sale materials including banners, table tents and beer menus to help drive traffic and create excitement in accounts across the country.
Distributors work closely with bar and tavern owners and their employees to provide responsible service as part of an effective system of state-based alcohol regulation. Bar and tavern owners make significant investments in the license that affords them the privilege to sell alcohol.
Because the employees of local beer distribution companies and local taverns live in the communities where they work, they are invested in keeping those communities safe. They understand that alcohol is not like other consumer goods and can have consequences if abused or consumed illegally by those not of legal drinking age. That’s why distributors and retailers participate in a variety of programs to promote responsible consumption. They support programs such as free taxi rides home and designated driver programs that work to combat drunk driving. And tavern owners are on the front lines working to prevent the underage purchase and consumption of alcohol.
Neighborhood bar and tavern owners are the “test markets” of new beer brands. Consumers across the country are demonstrating a growing interest in eating and drinking locally-sourced and produced products. Because independent distributors and retailers have been pillars of their communities - sometimes as family-owned businesses passed down through multiple generations - the “buy local” movement is an opportunity for these local businesses and employees to demonstrate their knowledge of the market by customizing their portfolios, taps and menus.
Beer distributors and local taverns, however, are increasingly concerned about the blurring of tiers. In some cases beer suppliers are allowed to perform all the actions of a retailer but without the same regulation and licensing that are required of tavern owners. More local, small breweries, long supported by taverns, are opening their own retail establishments, competing with traditional licensed restaurants and taverns. This does not always foster an environment where those taverns want to “support” their competition. And, as some larger suppliers acquire smaller breweries, should they be able to keep the same retail privileges? The mixing of tasting rooms and restaurants - and the blurring of these lines of distinction - will continue to be an issue moving forward in this industry.
It’s a great American tradition to gather with family, friends or colleagues to enjoy a cold beer in their local bar or tavern. America’s beer distributors are proud to partner with bar and tavern owners as part of a system that helps new brands get to market and offers consumers their choice of the largest international brands and the smallest local brews all on the same menu and bar tap.
Thanks to a successful system of independent distributors and retailers, American consumers enjoy more choice and variety in beer than any other consumer product - and more selection than any other country in the world. So when you head out to your local watering hole, be sure to raise a glass and offer a toast to a system that works so well for brewers, distributors, retailers – and most importantly – the consumer. Cheers!
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 http://ablusa.org/news/abl-insider.