Live from the NABCA Convention

The theme of this year’s NABCA Annual Convention, held at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, was “Building Bridges.” Appropriately chosen by NABCA Chairman and Michigan LCC Commissioner Andy Deloney (hailing from a state with two halves connected by the Mackinac Bridge), the focus of the event was on connecting people from across the industry. From suppliers and distributors to control states and private interests, the industry succeeds when everyone works toward common goals.

Following the event, the role of chairman passed to Virginia DABC Chairman Jeff Painter, whose theme for the 2019 convention will be “Advancing Future Value.” Wyoming Department of Revenue Director Dan Noble was announced as the incoming chair, who will follow Painter’s term.

Keynotes & Sessions

Highlights from the convention included keynote speeches by Admiral James Stavridis, who was considered a front-runner to be a vice presidential candidate, and Professor of Economics Peter Ricchiuti.

The event also provided attendees with a number of educational seminars. Idaho SLD Director Jeff Anderson moderated the “Building Bridges” seminar, which included ABL Executive Director John Bodnovich, Pat Bird from the Utah County Dept. of Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment and Marianne King from the Idaho Office of Drug Policy. They spoke about how industry stakeholders can work together to affect positive change.

“As control state officials, we should be able to easily answer the question ‘what value does your agency provide,’” Anderson said. “When we’re asked that by the public or state officials, we should have an answer other than just providing availability of spirits.”


“A beer lobbyist friend recently told me about all the family businesses that their industry supports,” Bird added. “He taught me a great deal about finding common ground between prevention specialists and the industry.”

Focusing on the positive was also helpful to King. “We changed our ‘Be the Parent’ campaign to focus on positive social norms instead of negative consequences,” she said. “That’s been helpful in getting the word out.”

In a session about customer service, Profits Plus President Tom Shay spoke about his family’s history in retail and how stores can improve their operations.

“Retail is more than just waiting on one customer,” he said. “It’s similar to a restaurant, where each waiter has multiple customers at a time. You need to convert more customers and track which of your employees or promotions are leading to that increase in sales.”

In a well-attended session about pay-to-play, Ohio DLC Superintendent Jim Canepa moderated a panel that included former President’s Forum director Vicky McDowell, consultant Tom Niekamp and NY State Liquor Authority General Counsel Chris Riano.

“Pay-to-play hurts everyone and it’s illegal,” McDowell said. All three tiers need to be part of the solution, working with state and federal regulators. It’s time for an honest discussion.”

“The TTB is stepping up efforts of enforcement thanks to a $5 million fund to find and prosecute pay-to-play violators,” Niekamp added.

The event’s final session, Partnering with On-Premise, featured NABCA COO David Jackson, Alabama ABC Board COO Neil Graff and Southern Glazer’s Ohio GM Steve McGuire.

“We have a partnership in Birmingham with the United States Bartenders Guild to bring in special-order items that aren’t normally carried,” Graff said. “We kept those outside our normal listing/delisting process because the city is being reinvigorated by millennials and they want to try drinks with unique ingredients.”

“It’s important as a broker or distributor to really listen to the needs of your on-premise customers,” McGuire added. “You can’t just go in trying to sell them something, they have to want to buy it.”

The control state industry will gather in Leesburg, Virginia for the annual NABCA Administrators Conference on October 21. StateWays will be there to honor the winners of the Best Practices Awards.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here