A recent meeting of the NABCA’s Board of Directors perhaps best exemplifies the direction the organization is heading these days. At this meeting, members of all three segments of the beverage alcohol industry also attended, from DISCUS, the Wine Institute and the Beer Institute. They were there to discuss with the Board beverage alcohol advertising resolutions that were on the table.
For Jim Sgueo, NABCA executive director, and John Byrne, current NABCA president, and chairman of the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission, the very fact that all three segments of the industry came together to give their perspectives on issues to the Board of Directors was tremendously positive. “It’s important for all of them to get together and communicate,” said Sgueo. “At NABCA, that’s our job — to act as a facilitator to get information and ideas out so that everyone involved can make informed decisions.”
Said Byrne, “We were enlightened by their [industry members] perspective on the issues.” For Byrne, this is the type of involvement and cooperation among all industry members (from suppliers, to control states, to open states, to advocacy groups) that he — and the previous three or four NABCA presidents– has been promoting for the last few years. And it is a dimension of the NABCA that is increasing the organization’s visibility and importance.
Of the three resolutions discussed and voted on, two were passed and one was defeated. A resolution in support of a Presidential Commission on Underage Drinking was passed. A resolution supporting Consideration for a Standard Advertising Code for Beer, Wine and Spirits was likewise passed [note that it is only a resolution to consider a standard advertising code]. The third resolution — a Federal Trade Commission recommendation for Third Party Review of All Alcohol Advertising — was defeated.
While these votes and resolutions are not binding on any of the control states per se, they do send a clear message — that control state officials are seriously engaged in all the essential issues of the day affecting the beverage alcohol industry.
Or as executive director Sgueo pointed out, “We need to convince suppliers that the control states are not just filled with bureaucrats trying to muddle through.”
From one point of view, the NABCA is an organization that operates best by building consensus, working with 19 separate control constituencies as well as many different beverage alcohol suppliers and interest groups, which sometimes makes it tricky to navigate positions on a variety of topics. Nevertheless, the NABCA Board, its staff, its committees and the various supplier representatives and liaisons have managed to do a wonderful job of creating the right atmosphere so that the NABCA can move forward on its basic mission: that is, to act as a forum for the control states and a provider of a wide range of statistics, data and organizational information that help NABCA members effect meaningful policy in their states and in the beverage alcohol industry as a whole.
“In one respect, we serve as a clearinghouse for information to and from the control states and the industry,” said Sgueo, emphasizing that the NABCA also provides important details to suppliers about conducting business in the control states. “We try to create a format in which the industry and the control states can interact in a mutually beneficial environment.” And according to Sgueo, the NABCA has moved forward on an expanded front in recent years, with more ambitious programs and a broader set of interests that has given the organization an increasing national presence.
Said John Byrne: “The NABCA has matured in the past four years. Particularly from a structural standpoint. Now we have a national Educational Symposium, a national Legal Symposium, and an Administrator Conference that meets annually to talk about specific opportunities to better use our resources.” The Administrator Conference, attended by control state managers of specific divisions, features sub-committees that examine regulatory issues, information technology, educational issues, and logistics, among other things.
“The NABCA is growing to be a leader in the beverage alcohol industry. Structurally, we’ve been dealing with bigger and broader issues.”
— JOHN BYRNE
“This has worked well,” Byrne emphasized. “It has helped to get a broader segment of control state officials actively involved in NABCA policy issues.”
In addition, the NABCA also sponsors the Annual ABI EC Conference, which takes place this month in New Orleans. The conference covers a wide range of issues surrounding electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions and delves into the latest developments in electronic solutions related to the beverage alcohol industry.
The third annual Symposium on Alcohol Beverage Law also takes place this month, in Alexandria VA. This meeting deals with relevant legal and policy issues facing the beverage alcohol industry, and is being attended by attorneys from the states and the industry. Some issues being covered deal with e-commerce laws, slotting fees and advertising restrictions.
The first National Alcohol Education Symposium, held this past fall, was a resounding success. Among other things, “it focused on the issues of underage and binge drinking,” said NABCA president Byrne. “We covered a lot of areas, among them questions of what role the states should play in fostering solutions, and what role the federal government should play.” There are definite plans — but no exact date yet — to follow up with a second National Education Symposium.
And, of course, there is the 63rd Annual NABCA Conference, this year taking place in May at Marco Island, FL. “Even the focus of the annual conference is expanding,” Sgueo said. “We’re presenting more national-level speakers, like Michael McCurry last year and General Schwartzkopf and political commentator Mark Shields this year, who are presenting a broadened picture of what’s going on in the country and the world.”
Still, Sgueo was quick to point out: “Unlike other trade associations that tend to represent their constituencies, we research for our constituencies. We’re not lobbyists. Rather, we provide support of all kinds for both the control states and the beverage alcohol industry.”
Indeed, the NABCA has grown over the past five years, not only in terms of its outlook but also in real, physical terms. And nobody could testify to those changes better than Jim Sgueo, who began working at the NABCA in 1968 and who was named executive director in 1993. “Our budget has gone from less than $2 million in ’93 to a nearly $4 million operating budget today,” he said. “We have more than doubled the number of symposiums and meetings.” With 22 full-time staff, the NABCA serves its membership with a plethora of statistical information.
“We serve as a clearinghouse of information to and from the control states and the industry.”
— JIM SGUEO
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NABCA
“The Statistical Reports are the fuel that powers the NABCA,” Sgueo noted. “All the control states participate and provide us with whatever information they can.” The reports are available on hard copy and electronically, and they can be customized in a proprietary way to break out data at the state level, the store level, and the licensee level. “What’s particularly valuable about these reports are that they give complete competitive data regarding retail takeaway in many markets. In licensed states, you can’t get complete data like this, because Nielsen scanner data does not take the entire marketplace into account.” Armed with unique competitive information, suppliers are able to view a “good picture of the beverage alcohol business,” Sgueo said.
Beyond the Statistical Reports, NABCA also puts out its valuable Survey Books and Annual Reports. The Survey covers operational and regulatory information for all 19 control state jurisdictions, based upon more than 30 surveys it compiles annually. In conjunction with this information, “anytime a state is considering a regulatory or operational change,” Sgueo said, “we’ll do research on all the other states and provide it to them.” In addition, the Survey Book is a useful tool for suppliers by aiding them in how they can do business properly in each individual control state. The NABCA Annual Report of the Control State Systems provides background and additional organizational, fiscal and political information about each of the control jurisdictions.
This ongoing influx of new information — including other useful NABCA publications — is a vital function that positions the NABCA squarely in the middle of many current and future issues facing the control states.
“All of us will be faced with changing beverage alcohol laws,” Sgueo noted, “such as what to do about interstate direct shipment of beverage alcohol products. It is part of the NABCA’s position to facilitate discussions of that — and other pertinent issues — to help our members and associate members make informed decisions. We have established the organization as both a viable business partner and a viable regulatory partner.” And the NABCA’s continual cooperation with other allied organizations — from the Century Council to the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration — also serves the NABCA well.
Said Sgueo: “One issue we’re currently wrestling with is the pros and cons of mandatory server training programs; that is, whether or not to have laws that mandate beverage alcohol employees participate in some form of server training program in the states. In Vermont and Oregon, these programs are already mandatory. In other states, the programs are strictly voluntary.”
To try to manage this issue, the Joint Committee’s Responsible Hospitality sub-committee is commissioning a study to determine the benefits of mandatory versus voluntary versus no server training programs. “At this point, it’s much too early to call, but it is our [NABCA] job to provide them [NABCA members] with as much information about the issue as we possibly can.”
A good example of how the NABCA arrived at an official consensus position was last year’s approval of a resolution regarding blood alcohol content (BAC) levels. The exact wording of the resolution, previously reported in StateWays, is:
“Whereas highway traffic deaths due to excessive alcohol consumption remain high; and
“Whereas several states gave adopted legislation reducing acceptable blood alcohol levels to .08 in an effort to reduce highway accidents related to alcohol consumption; and
“Whereas progress could be made toward further reducing alcohol-related accidents through adoption of a BAC standard,
“Now therefore, be it resolved that the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association supports a .08 standard for all states.”
Along with publication of the resolution, the NABCA board of directors also pointed out that it is “important to note that while there are conflicting studies on the effectiveness of .08 BAC legislation,” the board still felt strongly that it is an important factor in “the reduction of alcohol abuse and the harm it causes.”
Added executive director Sgueo: “Eight jurisdictions already had the .08 level, but industry people weren’t terribly comfortable with it. It was a very strong majority vote but not unanimous. Still, the board as a whole felt it was a step in the right direction.”
Importantly though, the board was unanimous in agreeing that the board itself could take a position on a national issue, Byrne said.
And to Byrne, this is a significant development, for he sees the NABCA as qualified to play a much more important role on the national stage in the future. “The NABCA is growing to be a leader in the beverage alcohol industry,” he said. “By bringing our policy statements to the decision-makers in the state houses and Congress, we can bring NABCA to a leadership position.”
For Byrne, the success of the NABCA Industry Steering Committee is emblematic of the direction the NABCA is heading. Comprised of 11 members from the distilled spirits industry, the Industry Steering Committee has had fruitful interactions with the NABCA for several years now. “It has allowed us to meet and establish relationships with senior management from the distilled spirits industry,” Byrne said. “And this past January, we’ve further solidified our relationship with the Steering Committee by institutionalizing it. We now have a charter officially making it part of the NABCA. And this will likely provide for future broader participation of other members of the spirits industry.”
And on the subject of total industry participation in discussing important issues, nobody is a larger booster than Byrne.
“On broad issues, such as direct shipment — not operational issues — we need more participation of the open and control states together, along with all three segments of the industry,” he said.
“Right now, we have an excellent relationship with DISCUS, and we need that same kind of relationship with the Wine Institute and the beer industry, and I see that starting to develop. We already expect a larger presence of the wine industry at our annual conference. And in April, a small group of board members, along with myself, are scheduled to spend five days with the Wine Institute in California.”
Indeed, the NABCA seems to be looking forward, even as it prepares to host its 63rd Annual Conference in a few months.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
NABCA president John Byrne noted that doing research, having dialogues and then making informed decisions is important. But then, taking the next step and making something happen may be even more crucial. For the past two years, the NABCA education committee has indeed made something happen, by distributing targeted mini-grants to the states.
In 1999, the committee awarded grants of $3,000 each to 13 states to support beverage alcohol education initiatives, such as programs to combat college campus drinking or the training of licensees regarding respsonsible beverage alcohol sales and service.
“It’s a great program and it’s growing,” said Byrne of the mini-grants.
A Meeting of Committees
Though some of the people chairing the various committees may well change later in the year, these are the NABCA committees and their chairpeople as they were assigned for term 1999-2000.
CONFERENCE PLANNING COMMITTEE
Chairman: James M. “Dyke” Nally (Idaho)
Vice Chair: Eugene “Gene” Prince (Washington)
Chairwoman: Mary Bryson (Montana)
Vice Chair: Clarence W. Roberts (Virginia)
Chairwoman: R.M. “Johnnie” Burton (Wyoming)
Vice Chair: Daniel J. O’Brien (Vermont)
GOVERNANCE AND MEMBERSHIP COMMITTEE
Chairman: Kenneth F. Wynn (Utah)
Vice Chair: George F. Bason (North Carolina)
INDUSTRY RELATIONS COMMITTEE
Chairman: Ed Buelow, Jr. (Mississippi)
Vice Chair: Robert J. Puentes (Oregon)
INTERNAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
Chairman: Howard L. Cook (Montgomery County, MD)
Vice Chair: George F. Bason (North Carolina)
LONG RANGE PLANNING COMMITTEE
Chairwoman: Jacqueline A. Stewart (Michigan)
Vice Chair: Donald L. Stemple (West Virginia)
EDUCATION TASK FORCE COMMITTEE
Chairwoman: R.M. “Johnnie” Burton (Wyoming)
INDUSTRY STATISTICS COMMITTEE
Chairman: Mark Halgunseth (Bacardi-Martini, U.S.A.
INFORMATION SYSTEMS COMMITTEE
Chairman: Randall Smith (Alabama)
PRODUCTS AND PROCEDURES COMMITTEE
Chairman: Eben B. Marsh (Maine)
Chairman: Clarence W. Roberts (Virginia)
EXECUTIVE STEERING COMMITTEE
John W. Byrne, President (New Hampshire)
R.M. “Johnnie” Burton, President-Elect (Wyoming)
Kenneth F. Wynn, Past-President (Utah)
INDUSTRY STEERING COMMITTEE
Chairman: Stephen A. Bellini (Seagram Americas)
JOINT COMMITTEE OF THE STATES
Chairman: John E. Jones III
(Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board)
Vice Chairman: Randy Yarbrough
(Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission)