Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a statement by Alcohol Justice.
What is Alcohol Justice? It is an organization that lobbies and fosters awareness against what it considers the harmful practices of the alcohol and drug industries and its customers and users. Alcohol Justice is against things like alcohol advertising and for things like higher taxes on alcohol. The group has a mission to monitor the influence beverage alcohol manufacturers, distributors and sellers have on the political level while bringing public awareness to the cost of drugs and alcohol in the forms of traffic DUIs, illness, crime, healthcare costs and the criminal justice system.
I would personally venture to say that Alcohol Justice does not support craft beer (well, they say different, but that’s up to you to decide). They certainly do not like Anheuser-Busch. Take this press release for instance:
“Anheuser-Busch InBev is not content with its global, national and state dominance of beer manufacturing and is now seeking anticompetitive market power in California by buying up distributors like Ace Beverage LLC of Los Angeles,” stated Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director/CEO of Alcohol Justice. “Alcohol Justice has asked for a full-scale investigation by California AG Xavier Becerra of anticompetitive and unfair trade practices by ABI, led by their out-going CEO Carlos Brito.”
In October, Anheuser-Busch announced an agreement to acquire key assets of 65-year-old Ace Beverage in Los Angeles, Calif., for an undisclosed amount. Already an A-B distributor, Ace supports territories from East LA to West LA from Hollywood and Inglewood to Monterey Park and Huntington Park. A few weeks before, Anheuser-Busch sold its Colorado distribution operations to Georgia A-B wholesaler Eagle Rock. I note this latter transaction because it resulted in 400 people being permanently laid off in Colorado.
Alcohol Justice sent a letter to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra requesting a full-scale investigation into the Ace transaction. Alcohol Justice cited California’s Cartwright Act, federal antitrust statutes and a bunch of other stuff. Here’s some flavor:
“The monopoly power potential of ABI in California is already great. With significant control in the distribution network as well, ABI can:
Potentially get inside information on retail activity at nearly every store, on-sale ABC licensee, or small producer.
Lower and raise beer prices at will.
Offer generous promotions and swag to retail tier purchasers to force out competitive brands.
Make it difficult for craft brew producers to get onto their trucks, while under lock-down conditions the craft brew industry is already suffering great economic stress.
Diminish distribution market share for any remaining independent distributors, forcing them out of business or forcing them to sell their assets and routes to ABI at deep discounts.”
After this post published, Alcohol Justice felt the description of their organization was inaccurate and provided this statement via Bruce Lee Livingston, executive director and CEO of Alcohol Justice.
We appreciate “Craft Brewing Business” getting the word out about the Anheuser-Busch InBev efforts to gain ownership of beer distributorships in California, along with Reyes. That is indeed detrimental to the craft brew industry, which depends on a middle tier of distribution to gain access to retail markets. However, I would like to clarify that our opposition is not opportunistic — we have a long term interest in an independent wholesale system in the US to protect consumers from price wars (up or down) by ABI and Molson-Coors and interest in preserving tide house safeguards against pressure for advertising and promotions at the retail level.
However your disclaimer that “Alcohol Justice does not like craft beer” is just wrong. The craft beer market niche is interesting to us: unlike ABI it doesn’t usually market to kids, aside from a few names and labels that TTB eventually disallows. We think the craft brew industry has been used as a stalking horse by big corporations to promote tax cuts that primarily benefit global corporations, such as in the federal “Craft Beverage” cuts that annually are considered in Congress. We can appreciate that craft brews are based on taste, as are most wines, and not on getting out the most volume of cheap product as ABI does.
Yes, we like alcohol taxes in general because they reduce harmful drinking and underage drinking. Because we vigorously oppose the monopoly practices of Big Alcohol, Alcohol Justice has some shared political interests with you. Try a taste of promoting public health and a well regulated market, you just might like it.