After further review, the glassware giveaway, alleged pay-to-play amendment written by Anheuser-Busch will not be included in House Bill 522 when it goes to a full Senate vote.
When you think of pay-to-play scenarios, you maybe think of shady money exchanged via shifty hands to have a certain brand on tap in a bar, but pay to play isn’t limited to cash. Free beer equipment, extra inventory, complimentary swag and unlawful agreements of all sorts fall in the same category. Of course, it’s even worse when those pay-to-play agreements are lawful.
Let us give you an example: Ohio House Bill 522 is aimed at allowing temporary outdoor drinking areas. It was going up for a vote before the Senate Agriculture Committee last week, but right before the vote, an amendment was added that increases the amount of glassware that an alcohol manufacturer or supplier may give as a gift to a retail permit holder. This amendment was written by an Anheuser-Busch lobbyist, according to the Ohio Craft Brewers Association.
“We had no issue with HB 522 in the form that passed the House,” explained Justin Hemminger, deputy director of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. “The Anheuser-Busch InBev-sponsored glassware amendment popped up just hours before the Senate Agriculture Committee vote on HB 522. Our brewery members contacted the committee chair, who postponed the vote. We continue to urge our membership to contact their state senators to object to the amendment and reject Big Beer’s attempts to legislate away fair competition and consumer choice. The swift and powerful response by OCBA members and craft beer drinkers in Ohio is working.”
Currently, any brewery or wholesaler may give a maximum of two cases of glassware to an Ohio retailer annually, and there’s no cap on the amount of glassware that a retailer can receive. This new amendment would double the amount a brewery can give from two to four cases and impose a limit on retailers to only accept seven cases total from all breweries and wholesalers. In effect, the Ohio Craft Brewers Association believes this would allow big brewers like Anheuser-Busch to influence accounts by maxing out the amount of free glassware a retailer would legally be allowed to take (since a brewery could give four cases free and their wholesaler could give another three).
Craft brewers feel this creates an unfair competitive advantage because big breweries have the financial resources to win a glassware race that they appear to be creating.
We reached out to Anheuser-Busch, and the company had this to say:
“The legislation permits brewers, big and small, to provide four cases of branded glassware to retailers, up from two cases today. Access to additional glassware will enhance people’s experiences with different styles of beer, which has the potential to increase interest in Ohio’s beer industry. Anheuser-Busch has been brewing in Ohio for more than 50 years and, as a leader in the beer industry, we believe in supporting initiatives that elevate the beer industry, increase consumer choice and support local jobs.”
HB 522 was originally proposed as a bill to allow F permit holders (temporary festivals) to set up and sell in Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas — basically areas where you can take a drink from a bar/restaurant and carry it outside the licensed premises. That bill passed the house earlier this year and was under review by the Senate Agriculture Committee in advance of a full Senate vote.
If you feel this amendment constitutes pay-to-play practices, the Ohio Craft Brewers Association encourages you, Ohio beer drinkers and Ohio craft brewers, to call you senator’s office directly, or if that is not possible, send an email. Find it here: http://www.ohiosenate.gov/senators/district-map
- Please identify yourself by name, say that you are a constituent and in which city or rural area you live.
- Ask the Senator to please vote against House Bill 522, specifically referencing the glassware amendment, because it gives an unfair advantage to global brewers, will limit the ability of Ohio’s craft brewers to get their beer into retailer accounts, and reduce your ability to access beers from Ohio’s small and independent craft brewers.
- Feel free to also talk about the positive impact of your favorite local craft breweries in your community. Ohio breweries employ 6,000 people and are revitalizing neighborhoods and towns across the state.