Pretty Things goes to town on "pay to play" in Massachusetts

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Todd, Oct 14, 2014.

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  1. HuskyHawk

    HuskyHawk Initiate (0) Jun 5, 2014 Massachusetts

    Some generic growler fill ability would be nice as well. Hell, someday Mass might even join this century
  2. TheBeerShop

    TheBeerShop Initiate (0) Jul 23, 2012 Massachusetts

    Oh, I totally agree... trust me, I'm a craft Beer Advocate, I was just playing devils advocate and labeling the problem of the old guard as it were. As soon as more people are of our mindset, things will change... it won't happen overnight tho... until then, enjoy good beer :grinning:
    Brutaltruth likes this.
  3. ChurchofPayton

    ChurchofPayton Initiate (0) Oct 16, 2014 Massachusetts

    While Dan from Pretty Things didn't call any retailers/package stores out in his rants I wouldn't say they are immune from this problem. I'm not calling you out specifically and I don't mean any disrespect but your post got me thinking... How do you(or others) distribute shelf space in your store? How about end caps? Cooler space? Do you have any single door refrigerators that are owned by wholesalers? If so, how do you stock them? Have you ever gotten sports/concert tickets from wholesalers? Have you ever gotten glassware or other merch from wholesalers that you sell or give away to customers??
  4. geocool

    geocool Disciple (335) Jun 21, 2006 Massachusetts

    So everyone seems to agree that "Pay to Play" for beer taps is illegal in MA. Can anyone tell me what the potential penalties would be for someone found guilty of such a thing? Is it a criminal or civil offense?
    CowsandBeer likes this.
  5. Brutaltruth

    Brutaltruth Poo-Bah (4,120) Mar 22, 2014 Ohio

    The customer is ALWAYS right, regardless if it is rat drool from the big 3 or something fantastic from Pretty Things. Here we have 50 West and Mt. Carmel as well as a LARGE GROWING micro scene and the places in which it is showing up is most excellent. Heck, even the Reds games in Cincinnati have a very nice craft beer area with Rhinegeist, Mt. Carmel, and many more.

  6. TheBeerShop

    TheBeerShop Initiate (0) Jul 23, 2012 Massachusetts

    Those are all good points and yes Retailers can (and perhaps do) fall into the same pay2play paradigm. We aren't immune. As for my shop specifically, we don't pay to pay. But to be honest, we're only 2 years old and our sales probably aren't high enough to be on anyones radar. From what I've seen and been told, W.MA in general doesn't have high enough volume in for it to be an issue...(with a few exceptions) Our shop doesn't cary any BMC, so no to thinking any of that money swings by. As for craft on craft, no to that as well.

    We arrange beer by style, so it doesn't really allow for any 1 brewery to stand out. We don't allow the little shelf talkers or stickers to flood the shelves either. We do have some endcaps, but I had to beg for them. We've made a few of our own just to make it look cool.And we switch them up often. I'd love to have a Firestone or Founders endcaps as they're 2 of my favorite breweries. But we don't. No, we've never been offered anything in exchange for displaying them, nor do they hassle us to stock them. (In fact I'm noticing 2 of them are nearly bare right now. I need to fix that)

    Unfortunately the only tickets we've been given were to beer launching events that the distributors hold for those in the industry to promote brands to stores. I almost wish it was that glamorous, but like many facets of the market, theres the law on the books, then there's the corporate culture... I think the culture is what Dann is trying to change. I hope his tweets and this forum can help bring some (agreed upon) ethics to the culture.

    Here's to some good beer- CHEERS!
  7. chinacat

    chinacat Initiate (0) Jun 20, 2014 Massachusetts

    As someone involved with a self distributed craft brewery I can definitely attest to pay to play being an established practice. There are several avenues of influence depending on if it is a bar or a package store and the guilty parties are on both sides of the counter. (management and distributors/breweries) Stores as opposed to bars are more often the victim than the perpetrator but when it comes to distributors they can be the biggest scum bags.
    My best advice is if you are a craft beer lover don't hesitate to ask questions at the establishment you spend money at. Force transparency at the expense of social discomfort. What is the worst thing that will happen? You get a cold shoulder or an f.u. from a bartender, store clerk or manager? Big f'n deal. Call em' out and if you are actually proven wrong then great, apologize if you feel necessary and know that you tried to make the craft beer world a better place.
    This type of corruption is undermining what we are trying to do as lovers of good beer and anyone who wants to argue the free market/capitalism bs needs to have a few strong ales and go look in the mirror for a good, long stare down with their inner self.
    Paquette and TheBeerShop like this.
  8. markdrinksbeer

    markdrinksbeer Initiate (0) Nov 14, 2013 Massachusetts

    Has Dann make any further comments after his tweets from over a week ago?

    I wonder if he realized something needed to be said/done, but a late night rant wasn't the best first step to take?
    Jason likes this.
  9. ChurchofPayton

    ChurchofPayton Initiate (0) Oct 16, 2014 Massachusetts

    Great reply! CHEERS to YOU!
  10. chet

    chet Initiate (0) Oct 26, 2014 Vermont

    wow what a crazy thread-
    I'm pretty open-minded but after 16 pages(!) am unconvinced why I should care what goes on between consenting adults behind closed doors. If you're in the industry and know what you're talking about is one thing, but for the rest of us what's to complain about ? Seriously man there's more choice out there than ever, more great beer out there than ever before...Y'all should quit yer bitchin' before you get what for wish for -namely an armed p2p task force paid for by a reinstated sales tax on beer !
  11. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I'm guessing you've not read much about why p2p was made illegal in the first place. Without such laws, the variety you value so much be greatly reduced, if it existed at all, and many smaller breweries whose output you currently enjoy would never have even started up in the first place because they wouldn't be able to sell their beers. For a fairly long time in this country in the 80s and early 90s there were only about 50 breweries for the whole country and all there was for sale was Adjunct Lagers of one kind or another. If those breweries had "owned" all the tap lines in the country what would you have today? Basically, that "more choice out there..." and that "...more great beer out there than ever before..." would not be there.

    Take a look at the essay linked to below and ask yourself if you'd really like to go back to the "tied house" system that existed pre-prohibition in the US where your local bar would stock only beers produced by one brewery and to find variety from a different brewery you'd have to go to a different bar and find mostly adjunct lagers there.
    #611 drtth, Oct 26, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2014
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  12. chet

    chet Initiate (0) Oct 26, 2014 Vermont

    haha yeah I actually learned the what a tied house was in a book about guitar chords by allan holdsworth so don't know too much history on it but after reading the wiki link I agree with you laws to get get rid of tied houses have allowed what we have today to grow . and that's my point - we have more great beer in our midst and more great quality choices than ever before so seems to me most people are playing by the rules and those laws are doing their job so I don't think you should mess with that. You can't get absolute compliance and I think you should ask yourself what could be the unintended consequences of trying to tighten this down too much... who exactly is going to regulate this further than it already is ? what makes you think we'll be better off creating more laws and stricter enforcements - because governments are less corrupt than bars and distributors ?
  13. cookiequiz

    cookiequiz Aspirant (249) Apr 15, 2013 California

    'There's always going to be crime, so why police?'
  14. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    But you see the whole point of the thread is that in Boston (and some other places) there appears to be a greater degree of non-compliance than in many other places. So most people from that areas posting are not calling for more regulation and/or laws but simply for an increased degree of enforcement to ensure a higher level of compliance. Especially in light of the fact that the current situation appears to have the potential for creating or leading to a decrease in the diversity and freedom of choice that you as an individual value so highly. Although in this case the end result if the non-compliance continues at a very high level would not be called "tied-house" but rather "tied-distributor." Resulting in a net loss of opportunity/power to the small independent brewers and a decline in diversity and freedom of choice for you and the rest of us.
    #614 drtth, Oct 27, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
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  15. chet

    chet Initiate (0) Oct 26, 2014 Vermont

    do you think everyone deserves a ticket every time they speed ?
    we have laws, we have a governing body to regulate them and it's working pretty darn good as evidenced
    by the awesome beer scene going on -probably the best ever... there's a balance that's needed to create what we are all enjoying right now and balance is needed to keep it going. you're thinking in extremes.
  16. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (9,807) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    I really hope this is a secondary account for you, one that allows to say things you may not want to say under your "real" BA account. I hope you're just saying these things to keep the pot stirred, and the subject forward in our minds. If so, congrats. If not...
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  17. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,099) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    I will leave off the rest of the "reasoning"(lacking a better, less ironic, word) in your posts to get here. But I believe you are trolling because your conclusions, based on the points you made to reach them, should have been that you are in favor of bringing resolution to this so that there could be less law, better law. Your conclusion that complaining about too many laws being poorly followed will lead to more laws which you hope are followed even more poorly is ridiculous.

    I do wonder who you are behind this ghost account though, you were a bit too civil and poorly informed to be a Wilcox group guy, but I could be wrong
  18. chet

    chet Initiate (0) Oct 26, 2014 Vermont

    actually what i concluded was we have laws in place which most people follow, the system is not broken because we're living in the best beer scene of all time, and pursuit of absolute compliance is going to screw with that.

    "wilcox guy" now that's funny !
  19. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,099) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    Just so we are clear, you are saying if we enforce laws meant to level a playing field and provide more variety, it will do the opposite? Variety will get worse, and the great beer scene will become less great?

    Of course you can see the problem folks with brains and experience have with this "reasoning"?

    C'mon who are you really?
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  20. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (2,381) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    What happens if "we" (meaning the legislature, congress, city council, etc.) create laws that, regardless of good intent, are either unenforceable, or for which "we" do not provide adequate enforcement resources? Doesn't that describe the p2p situation in Boston and Massachusetts at large? (I would seem to, based on information in this thread.)

    What happens then?

    Is the existence of the law a good thing or not?
  21. Jason

    Jason Founder (8,354) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts

    From what I have been hearing is that some if not all distributors are being or will be audited soon. So it looks like the "opening up a big can of worms" scenario is happening. This did not come from complaints being properly filed but rather the ABCC being put in the spotlight via news sources asking them what they are going to do about it. An embarrassing hot mess still. I have talked to other industry people from bar owners to sales reps and all agreed this was the wrong way to go about it. I'm doubting anyone will be singled out as an example but things will get real tight in MA going forward.
  22. geocool

    geocool Disciple (335) Jun 21, 2006 Massachusetts

    What might be an "embarrassing hot mess" for some is, for me, a source of great pride and satisfaction. Let's hope it stays that way.

    How many small brewers that you've talked to also think it was the wrong way to go about it?
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  23. Jason

    Jason Founder (8,354) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts

    More than enough to validate my own personal opinions on the subject. There was no feeling of pride in any of this ...
  24. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,561) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “…all agreed this was the wrong way to go about it.”

    Jason, what was (is) the right way to go about this?

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  25. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (2,381) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Well, since this law has been on the books forever, and since it has been common knowledge that p2p was going on forever, and since the authorities have not investigated any violations for years and years (if ever?), what IS the right way if you want results? At least this way got some kind of action. It remains to be seen if this is real action or just something that would make Captain Louis Renault proud.
  26. Cascade77

    Cascade77 Initiate (0) May 14, 2009 Vermont

    Right. Probably because "properly filed complaints" (whatever those are) probably wouldn't have done jack shit to motivate the ABCC. Seems that the media spotlight is exactly what was needed.
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  27. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Devotee (436) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    I have to chime in too. This "wrong way" got results that have evidently not occurred in Boston for a couple decades.

    Everybody gets their knickers in a twist when the status quo they've all adapted to gets disrupted. Even if it's a status quo that sucks, and that they don't really like. That's just human nature. Frankly the opinion of anybody who has a vested interest of any sort is suspect, and doesn't "validate" anything.

    Here's a contrary idea, try it on if you will. Any complaint anybody filed on this--the "proper channels", the "right way to handle this"-- would have been stuck in a folder, triggered MAYBE one phone call at most (which would have gone something like "Dave? Bill here, down at ABCC. Hey, crazy thing, somebody says his beer isn't on tap anywhere because of pay to play. You guys aren't doing anything like that, right? Cool, that's what I thought. Thanks, bye."), and then the file would have been stuck in some cabinet, never to be opened again.
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  28. Jason

    Jason Founder (8,354) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts

    reply to : @Cascade77 @MNAle @JackHorzempa

    It is not that the media got involved that I am bent out of shape about ... at a certain point that would have happened. It started on twitter, then beer sites, then Brewbound, then main stream media ... all in a frenzy stating no actual proof.

    Nothing has be found yet so applauding that the main stream media needed to be and was involved in this while seeing zero results as of today is all a bit of a joke. Perhaps tomorrow will be different. ;-)

    What if 10 or so brewers got together with proper complaints filled out and physically went to the ABCC offices to plead their case, would that just fall on deaf ears? If so then have the group go to the media and make a stink. At least that would have some substance, some ground to stand on.
  29. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,561) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “What if 10 or so brewers got together with proper complaints filled out and physically went to the ABCC offices to plead their case…”

    It seems to me that a fairly common theme in this thread from the brewing industry folks who posted is: I don’t want to levy a complaint because then there could be negative consequences on me or the business I work for.

    Given that there is reticence on the part of the beer brewery folks it does not seem realistic that they will get together with ‘proper’ complaints filled out and physically visiting with the ABCC folks.

    If you agree with the above, what is the next best right way to go about this?

    geocool and jujigatame like this.
  30. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Devotee (436) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    I actually believe this story demonstrates the power of BeerAdvocate. And that's cool. This thing built to the point the mainstream media couldn't ignore it only after the tweet was posted here. And several Boston and New England brewers confirmed, in this thread, that Paquette wasn't out in left field.

    I guarantee you in my town the Denver Post and Westword and the Denver Business Journal beer writers are on this site every single day, not to mention the plethora of beer bloggers, and I have no doubt Boston is the same way.
  31. jaimoe

    jaimoe Initiate (0) May 15, 2010 Ohio

    I am a distributor so I will play devil's advocate. I get a big kick out of the highbrow attitude some folks, that's SOME folks, take when harping on their distributors. Some of these folks are the first ones to have their hands out asking for free glassware, couplers, tee shirts, ball tickets, whatever they can get for free. We provide them, in fact I'd say all of the distributors in my market provide benefits in one fashion or another. I guess you could say in some sense we all buy taps.
    I can also tell you many breweries will "buy taps", it just is.

    It cracks me up to read about the limiting of power or limiting of choice. This is the way business has been conducted forever and probably will continue. If you don't like it, fine, I can understand that but it seems to me that if you don't like the way the game is played you'll take your little ball and go home. I know, I either can't afford to spend or I refuse to so I'll just turn people in to the LCB, they'll enforce and it will be a level playing field. You couldn't be more naive.

    The craft consumer wants a steady supply of fresh, amazing, rare beer and they don't want to pay much for it. Dream on. I am a consumer as well as a proud distributor of fine beer and p2p is not going away, we accept it even though it lowers our margins, so ask yourself who is at fault? The distributors or the bars, or even the brewers that demand big numbers or per case marketing budgets?

    So you wonder why distributors get upset when we invest, in accounts or brands and then get taken down for the latest log of double IPA? It's pretty simple. We partner with people that want to partner with us. If we feck you or you feck us then it will be just like any other place up and down the street. If we give you the cool, the rare , the hard to find and we are on and off we'll just go elsewhere.

    Why would we let any on or off prem account cherry pick our book if it means that the folks that support a brewery's core brands might lose out? So the bar can say "we want what nobody else has"? Oh dear.

    Even the tiny little boutique craft houses do things like buy taps. Trust me, I have no reason to lie.

    This is a complex discussion and no point in getting excited about it. Bribery and graft have occurred since day 1 and are not likely to stop any time soon. As long as one person does it others will get in line, and yes, my company is guilty too.
    #631 jaimoe, Oct 27, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
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  32. chet

    chet Initiate (0) Oct 26, 2014 Vermont

    No you're saying that.
    I'm saying we have a level field now. The great variety of beer we all enjoy is proof of that.

    yes because the people who will been enforcing this don't give a shit about beer.

    For "Folks with brains and experience" not really no.

    take the red pill Dave !
  33. jujigatame

    jujigatame Initiate (145) Apr 10, 2009 Massachusetts

    I think we'd be waiting a loooooong time for that bus to come around the corner before Dann did what he did, unless your hypothetical scenario is based on some knowledge the rest of us don't have.

    Maybe the chances of brewer action are better now if ABCC is, or at least acts as if they are, more interested in taking a legitimate look at the problem. Then again, maybe most of them still do nothing because they decide the entanglements are too complicated and difficult to deal with and it would be better if someone else stepped into the firing line first. I feel the latter case is more likely based on what the brewers themselves have said so far in this discussion. I'd love to be proven wrong but am not holding my breath.
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  34. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,099) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    I guess none of y'all do. Glad I don't live in your state. Ooops I forgot you are from Vermont.
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  35. terrapinfan88

    terrapinfan88 Initiate (0) Nov 15, 2009 Virginia

    Its pretty rampant buying lines can come in all kinds of forms giving bars free swag (coasters/neons/glasses/cheesy promo stuff. Staffing and supplying takeovers/special events, complimentary draft tech on the committed lines. meanwhile if a retailer wants to sell glasses they can't even buy the ones they throw at bars for free. You have to have a separate invoice from a company other than the distributor i.e the glass manufacturer, or brewery themselves. Thats at least how it is in in my state. I've never heard of cash/credits exchanging hands but being one of few retailers who orders kegs in the area a lot is reserved for on premise only and I'm sure prices are more flexible for those accounts.

    I think it also has a lot to do with who/what company owns the distributor generally those are the people making calls like that, and its generally the big boys. but who knows?
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  36. BlindSalimander

    BlindSalimander Initiate (0) Aug 16, 2010 Texas

    Is that a good example? There are already laws on the books for this that are not policed. We do police crime.
  37. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (9,807) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    As it happens,last Monday I attended a program presented by one of the largest craft breweries. In attendance were brewery people, distributor reps, bar and restaurant people, and tap cleaners. The topic at hand was, how to know your lines are clean, how to clean them, and, if you hire a cleaning service, how to make sure you're getting what you pay for from your service. In the course of the presentation, it was brought up that, mine is one of 13 states where distributors are, legally, not allowed to clean taps. The presenter mentioned that one way around this was for the distributor to just have a separate LLC, that goes in to clean taps. Now, if, maybe, perhaps your bar chose this distributors semi-related tap service, then perhaps, maybe, possibly, sometimes, if the moon were in the correct phase, a bar might get a discount on their next order, roughly proportionate to the amount of said service.

    As it happens, this thread was still on my mind. I managed to get a moment aside with the presenter, and brought up this topic. And, there was just a smile and a nod. Shocked! Shocked I say!
  38. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Well, it is interesting that there's only one person contributing to this thread who seems to think the playing field actually is level despite the fact that many of us also do not live in the Boston area and do live in areas with great diversity, similar laws, and different levels of compliance with those laws, despite the fact there is documentation of the lack of a level playing field in Boston and some other areas of the U.S. and despite the fact there is confirmation of a problem by people from Boston.
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  39. gothedistance

    gothedistance Initiate (0) Jul 23, 2009 South Carolina

    Please, @Sponan I would love to hear your thoughts on how I can fairly allocate Hopslam to my accounts that I love come January. I get far, far less than demand. I try to be as fair as I can, but someone always ends up butthurt.
  40. HuskyHawk

    HuskyHawk Initiate (0) Jun 5, 2014 Massachusetts

    There shouldn't be pride. There should be shame. I suspect they don't think it is the right way because it is embarrassing. Just handle things "behind closed doors" like all types of corruption, and nothing will ever change. It's the same attitude that causes people not to testify against criminals in their neighborhoods and cops to not adequately self police other cops. For corrupt politicians and unions or businesses to engage in the nonsense they do. It's BS. Bring some sunlight on this and disinfect it. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke
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