The Rest of the 2018 Best Practices Awards Winners

Best Enforcement Program: Vermont Department of Liquor Control

By Hillary Richard

Vermont is in the midst of a craft beer boom. Right now, craft beer generates more tourism dollars for the state than its famous maple syrup, and in the next five years the craft beer industry is projected to bring in more money than the ski industry. In addition to changing the landscape of alcohol, this changed the landscape of alcohol enforcement.

“On any given day, we can have as many as 7,000 active outlets engaging in the sale of alcohol or tobacco – and I have 11 investigators,” says Chief Skyler Genest, of the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery Office of Compliance and Enforcement.

In his first year on the job as chief, Genest realized quickly that the department needed to evolve alongside the state’s burgeoning beer industry. Genest, who came from a computer science and law enforcement background, sought an efficient way to figure out how to allocate investigators across the state to the places they’re most needed.

When he met a state programmer working with predictive analytics in an engineering context who used math to predict where deficiencies would occur in infrastructure, Genest realized they were doing the same thing with that data he wanted to do in the law enforcement and social science landscapes. Genest felt there was a missed opportunity somewhere to compile everyone’s data and get a better idea of alcohol issues statewide.

The Vermont Department of Liquor Control found an affordable, modern solution to its data collection woes: they built an app for that. Project RABIT (Resource Allocation Based on an Intelligence Toolkit) started looking at ways the state collected data.

Previous compliance and inspection programs lived and died on paper forms that ended up collecting dust in filing cabinets – so the first step was to do away with inefficient paper forms. Then, they had two specialty iOS-based apps built. The first app was configured for all of their compliance- and inspection-based law enforcement programs’ reporting, like statewide DUI arrests, population information, geospatial data, refined internal datasets (such as licensing info), public compliance and investigative data. A second app analyzed the data points, found relationships and created rankings of licensees on a weekly basis to determine which establishments were most likely to have issues.

Project RABIT created a public-facing interactive dashboard that translated the data visually and created predictive models. Mining all of this and finding relationships and trends inside the data was a monumental task made very simple by technology.

“We call it our strategic inspection model,” Genest says. “Everything before we transitioned to it on May 1, 2017, was randomized or based on gut instinct. We have statistics now to show how much more effective we are. We were observing violations about 2% of the time during inspections. Since May 1, we’re just under 14% because of the app. It shows how much more effective we can be with just a little bit of help.”

Adjusting to the app system was a minor culture change, but what helped was that everyone knew they weren’t just introducing technology for the sake of technology.

“We realistically wanted to capture data in a way that made us useful and better at parts of our job. If you give people a reason – the why – it helps,” Genest says. “This was a really low cost innovation. We’re talking about a couple thousand dollars for this strategy, so not all technology solutions have to be multi-million-dollar contracts.”

 

Best Enforcement Program: Montana Alcoholic Beverage Control Division

By Hillary Richard

When Lisa Scates joined the Department of Revenue, Alcoholic Beverage Control Division in Montana 10 years ago, she noticed one glaring issue.

“We didn’t really train law enforcement on liquor laws, so they didn’t know what they could enforce and how,” she says. “We have 56 sheriff offices and we weren’t doing anything to educate them.”

Improving (and in many ways, starting) the education process was a multi-tiered, ongoing task for Scates, the Alcohol Education Coordinator. One of her main missions was to try to change the focus of law enforcement when it comes to alcohol violations across the vast state.

“Only 35% of youths are getting their alcohol from a retail establishment, yet [underage drinking] is where we put all of our time, money and resources,” she says. “We have a huge problem with over-service and that’s what’s killing people on our roads. People will drive 50 miles to get to a bar, drink, then drive 50 miles back home. We need to send them a message.”

Scates adds that when alcohol abuse is present, all crimes and accidents go up – like sexual assault, animal abuse, slips and falls, domestic abuse – so her aim was to get people to understand this waterfall effect.

There were a lot of moving parts involved in promoting alcohol enforcement education over the years. The ABCD developed a recommended compliance check document across the state, sending it to the many individual law enforcement agencies. They created a resource library for law enforcement and provided tool kits free of charge for different agencies to create their own resource libraries. They designed a series of card inserts on a convenient ring for officers to place into their ticket books as references.

Then, of course, there are the actual Alcohol Education Unit classes during Montana Law Enforcement Academy training. Scates scoured the 480 hours of the academy’s class content and realized around 200 hours discussed or involved alcohol, yet nowhere were cadets told how to enforce the laws. She had to pull some strings and use her connections to petition for more comprehensive alcohol education.

Now, the ABCD teaches one three-hour elective class during each academy. This voluntary, extra credit class has been so successful that law enforcement instructors essentially tell cadets to go. The class covers the laws, what constitutes a violation, how to enforce it and gives cadets the tools to deal with any problem establishments.

When The Montana Highway Patrol shut down the Wet Lab for financial reasons, this led to judges dismissing court cases on the basis that the arresting officer wasn’t trained in administering field sobriety tests. The ABCD reintroduced and funded the Montana Highway Patrol Wet Lab in 2012. In order for officers to administer field sobriety tests that will hold up in court, they have to conduct them a certain amount of times. At the academy Wet Lab, volunteers drink in a controlled environment and then allow the cadets to practice with their field sobriety books.

“It’s been 10 years to develop this to the point it’s at now and we’ve always received very good feedback from law enforcement,” says Scates, who also recruits law enforcement officers as trainers. “Every time I teach a class, I see the light bulbs go off in their heads. They follow the law, and nobody ever told them what they can do to enforce it before.”

 

Best Technology innovation: Société des Alcools du Québec

By Kyle Swartz

The Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ) is the government corporation in Quebec responsible for alcohol retail through a network of 440 stores across the province. Millions of individual consumers visit these stores. Despite that daunting number, SAQ aims to provide each person with customized service.

In 2015 the organization launched SAQ Inspire, a new form of personalized customer experience. This included a scalable digital platform that gathers data on consumers with each transaction and interaction.

“A couple of years before the launch we came out with a program that identified for consumers what they liked about the tastes of wines,” recalls Sandrine Bourlet, SAQ Directrice Marketing et Expérience Client. “In the same vein we wanted a program that provided consumers and employees tools to help them make the best choices of products.”

In the years since SAQ Inspire launched, the information it gathers has been leveraged in a variety of helpful ways. In-store employees can access consumer profiles, then tailor product recommendations by scanning customers’ Inspire cards. Computers installed throughout stores, as well as phone apps, allow Inspire members to view their data while consulting with an employee advisor.

SAQ developed marketing messages that highlighted the important role the advisor plays, illustrated how the program is taking shape and proposed tips for making new finds, accumulating Inspire points quicker and taking advantage of new arrivals.

Every Thursday, SAQ sends out 1.7 million newsletters tailored specifically to the preferences of each member. This generates an open rate of 35% (and more for certain client segments) with average click rates of 20% (five times the industry average).

“I think consumers today are solicited by all sorts of hyper-connected advertising everywhere,” Bourlet says. “You have to get their attention.”

But what about all that data collection? In the era of online hacks, are consumers worried about their information stored in SAQ databases?

Bourlet does not believe so. “They know their data is being used in a good way with us,” she explains. “They’re very pleased with the benefits of the program, and want that enhanced consumer experience.”

SAQ Inspire plots that experience down to the granular details through its “relationship marketing curriculum” (CRM) during the “membership lifecycle.” Each customer’s profile helps employees engage with specific contact strategies based on the data available. Every point of contact with members fits into the lifecycle: registration, activation and retention.

To keep members engaged, SAQ Inspire CRM is also deployed through ad hoc communications such as member birthday, points redemption proximity or member satisfaction survey.

The data about the program speaks for itself. Of the dollars spent at SAQ, 70% are now linked to a member’s program card. The average member’s shopping-cart value is 43% higher than that of a non-member.

Survey responses have been positive, and increasingly so. Asked last year whether members receive “better personalized service thanks to SAQ Inspire,” 88% said yes — up from 83% in 2016.

“We have many metrics that make sure we’re on the right track,” Bourlet says.

Now with 2.2 million members in a potential market of 4.5 million, SAQ Inspire has achieved — in only two years — a substantial penetration rate, comparable to the most popular proprietary loyalty programs in Canada.

 

Best Technology Innovation: Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages

By Kyle Swartz

The Bureau Of Alcoholic Beverages in Maine has gone mobile. Last year the department launched its new Maine Spirits App, a new cellular tool with multiple aspects.

Users can look up how to make their favorite mixed drinks, or create a cocktail by searching for recipes based on ingredients they already have on hand. The app also provides a list of spirits available in the Maine, along with pricing and where to buy them. The application is available for both android and IOS users.

“We were looking for another way to connect and reach out to consumers,” explains Tracy Willett, manager of liquor operations for the bureau. “This day and age, everyone is on their mobile phones and apps for everything, so we thought, ‘Why not give that a shot?’”

The bureau worked with the Maine-based company iBec Creative on the app. It took about a year to create and design the Maine Spirits App, and the first phase launched in March 2018.

“The idea what that we wanted to help people find what they need,” Willett says.

The bureau reached out to suppliers for recipes, which staff then entered into a database by hand — including uploading images. The process of building this useful recipe catalog took about a year, Willet says.

If a consumer is short on cocktail ingredients, the app allows users to enter what products are in their cupboard. Then the app searches the vast recipe database for what these people can make given the products already in their home.

Though if a consumer feels like making the trip to pick up a missing ingredient — or to buy their favorite whiskey — the app has them covered there too. Users can type in the spirit they desire, plus their zip code, and the app will find all locations carrying that product within 25 miles.

This is helpful for more than just Mainers. “A lot of folks come into our state for vacation in summer, and will be looking for one spirit in particular,” Willett says. “But not every store carries every brand.”

With the app, tourists can easily locate precisely what they want. The app will also provide users with that store’s phone number, so they can call ahead to confirm that the product is still in stock.

From March through June, more than 3,000 people downloaded the Maine Spirits App. The bureau supported the launch with a Facebook push, along with coasters, cards and AQ codes.

Phase two of the app is in the idea phase, as the bureau and iBec Creative discuss what they want next. “The way we see the app, this is not going to be a stagnant thing,” Willett says. “We’re going to constantly add more recipes.”

 

Best Distribution Innovation: Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control

By Alex Van Abbema

One hundred percent accountability – no excuses.

A giant banner hanging in the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control’s warehouse with this phrase exemplifies John Zeltner’s mantra, an instrumental part in how he and his staff, including manager Mike Vogel, turned things around at the agency.

Prior to this year, Zeltner says the staff at DLC was struggling with its workload and the amount of special orders it received, which would often run up to 12,000 per week. Inventory would be brought into the warehouse, but sometimes wouldn’t be put into the system for two to four weeks.

Customers used to order stock items on a 48-hour cycle, but the DLC wanted to bring this down to 24 hours to allow customers to better manage their inventory and cash flow. To turn this around, Zeltner had to completely change both the culture and the operations of the business.

“The vision of this building changed totally,” Zeltner says. “Myself and others needed to be held accountable to make these improvements, and we also had to follow through.”

During the process, he found that the warehouse was in desperate need of some technological updates.

“Most of the people have been here a long time, and didn’t have any outside knowledge,” Zeltner says. “The warehouse, our systems, our processes were late ‘80s, early ‘90s. We needed to get it into this current century and beyond.”

DLC updated its picking system, which used to be done as a manual process for wine and spirits, with one staff member standing up with a book and yelling at staff members to pick certain items. Now orders are given to warehouse workers through a headset, and staff members can see certain orders on the warehouse’s television screens.

The warehouse staff also introduced stickers for every special order, which lists each customer and the required delivery date.

DLC also had to revamp its truck system. New box trucks replace decades-old trucks with new features such as refrigeration and GPS integration for tracking the truck’s route and speed. Sixteen new trucks were purchased, and the program will eventually replace all 40 trucks.

Before the changes, when a special order came in, Zeltner says it was physically handled an average of five times. Along with its other trucks, DLC brought in a six-wheeler with a conveyor belt, which lessened the physical impact on the employees, and decreased the amount of times handled to 2.5 times.

The DLC added flow racks (a $500,000 investment) to increase efficiency and store inventory. An additional $130,000 was invested in the beer overstock area, beer special area and beer keg area.

Zeltner says the addition of racking has benefited the warehouse operations greatly, and has given the warehouse workers significantly more space to work with.

“It was all about the people, process, technology, money and equipment,” Zeltner says. “We had to have the people thinking right and the processes in place. Technology is going to mirror processes.”

 

Best Distribution Innovation: Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control

By Alex Van Abbema

When Mark Dunham joined Virginia ABC in October 2016, he knew he had his work cut out for him.

At that time, the company was struggling to ship 19,500 cases a day – well below its desired rate – with 58 full-time and 47 part-time employees.

As Virginia ABC’s Director of Logistics, Dunham oversees a 292,285 square-foot warehouse and the $52 million (at peak season) of distilled spirits, Virginia wine and non-alcoholic mixers that move through it.

In spring 2017, Dunham started making major changes, starting with tackling the lack of training with his employees. Dunham says he wanted to build trust with his new staff, and get their input on issues within the warehouse.

He started by offering formalized training for his supervisors in the form of a seven-month-long program provided by ABC’s human resources staff. He says his main goal was to get supervisors as comfortable as they could with their position, which meant introducing daily inspections in the warehouse, new processes, guidelines and standards.

Additionally, Dunham introduced monthly employee meetings where he shared productivity goals and incentive stats with his supervisors.

Beyond improving training initiatives, Dunham revamped the incentive programs so that pay for Virginia’s ABC’s became based on individual effort.

“It used to be, if you worked in the area, the area would share the incentive,” Dunham says. “We had folks inside of an area that were outperforming others.”

With the revamped program, employees can earn up to an additional $160 per pay period in the loading platform area.

The incentive pay for the shelf-pick area is based on accuracy, cases picked per hour and hours worked. Two employees in this area have taken home an extra $1,300 in pay for one month.

Additionally, Dunham knew he had to reduce breakage of items in the warehouse. The crew moved away from chimney stacking pallets, which led to toppled boxes and breakage.

Each supervisor, on a weekly rotation, began taking turns inspecting different areas of the warehouse to pinpoint problems.

Now when breakage does occur, Virginia ABC’s employees place wet boxes in plastic totes, which prevents the escalation of additional damage to surrounding boxes. This brought breakage stats down 41 percent, to numbers that hadn’t been seen since 2013.

With the decreased breakage in the warehouse, Dunham was able to bring this money back to his employees in the form of complimentary lunches every month. At these meetings he also announces an employee of the month, and rewards the individual who has demonstrated outstanding performance with a premium parking spot and a $100 reward.

“It was a simple strategic objective in the warehouse: To be perfect everyday,” Dunham says. “Be perfect recognizing that we’re human. As long as we’re trying to do the right thing everyday, good things happen.”

 

Best stakeholder outreach: Minnesota SMART Program

By Andrew Madigan

The SMART campaign—Supporting Minnesota’s Alcohol Regulations and Traditions—was formed in 2015 to educate the public about state alcohol policies, and to lobby against industry deregulation. The group ardently supports Minnesota’s current alcohol polices and leads the fight against a number of proposed changes. The campaign is made up of a coalition of labor and trade organizations, including the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association, the Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association, the Minnesota Wine and Spirits Association and Teamsters Joint Council 32.

Alcohol regulation is a hot-button issue throughout Minnesota. The SMART campaign is a platform for coalition groups and members to voice their concerns to state legislators and to inform the public about the relevant issues. In this effort, the SMART team has accomplished quite a lot in just a few short years. They sent thousands of emails and made numerous phone calls to state politicians encouraging them to join the cause. Specifically, the coalition is against Sunday alcohol sales and the sale of wine and full-strength beer (more than 3.2% ABV) in groceries and convenience stores. They also want to maintain the current state regulations governing alcohol licensing and sales.

The campaign has been exceptionally busy. Coalition members have been actively monitoring media coverage of the alcohol industry, responding to media inquires, drafting press releases, placing opinion pieces in periodicals such as the Star Tribune and training spokesperson to address both the media and legislative assemblies.

With over 2,000 local advocates and 50 community meetings held in targeted legislative districts, the SMART team has organized “Day at the Capitol” events, membership drives, facility tours and other activities. They’ve also designed and launched a dedicated website, made brochures and engaged in direct mail canvassing.

Bars, package stores, restaurants, breweries, distributors, grocers and government officials all have their own interests. The SMART campaign has skillfully negotiated this difficult terrain and their achievements have been profound, he says.

“We have also been able to maintain the integrity of a liquor store license so that alcohol may only be sold for off-sale from liquor stores,” says Joseph Bagnoli, the coalition’s lobbyist. “We believe that the consumer benefits from this system, as Minnesota consumers have better selection and pricing than in other states.”

There are exceptions to these off-sale regulations. In fact, the coalition has helped ensure that small business-owners, such as craft brewers, can sell their products directly to customers without negatively affecting the business of bars, restaurants and other alcohol vendors. In other words—everyone wins.

What does the future hold for the program? According to Bagnoli, there are still many more challenges ahead. In Minnesota, grocers, convenience stores and other shops are permitted to sell alcohol, and approximately 140 retailers are doing so. State laws dictate that they must adhere to the same guidelines as traditional package stores. However, some groups want to rewrite the legislation.

“What grocery stores want,” Mr. Bagnoli says, “is a special law that will change this. The change would allow them to stock alcohol on the same aisles as other groceries and would also allow them to open as many stores in a city as they would like.”

Paul Kaspszak, Director of the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association, is another active member of the SMART campaign.

“The coalition represents the common concerns of each participant and presents a unified front to both friends and foes,” he says. “There is strength in numbers and our ability to effect change is greatly increased when we work together.”

 

Best stakeholder outreach program: Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control

By Andrew Madigan

The Utah DABC (Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control) has completely reimagined and redesigned its approach to stakeholder outreach—and the efforts have been thoroughly successful. They are a prime example of how an organization can (and should) work alongside business partners and customers to achieve an ideal level of cooperation, user-friendliness and mutual respect.

It wasn’t always like this. According to Terry Wood, director of communications and public information, a few years ago things were in disarray.

“The DABC was in the midst of inner turmoil. That resulted in a ‘circling of the wagons’ mentality that left us closed to public scrutiny and open to criticism, both from the media and other stakeholders,” he says

The first step was a reorganization of management. Along with new leaders came fresh ideas and a new way of seeing the DABC’s relationship with local business, the community and the state. Instead of looking only to themselves for answers, they reached out to their stakeholders—bars, restaurants, off-license package agencies, state liquor stores, local distillers, brewers, vintners, alcohol reps, store customers and groups dedicated to curbing underage drinking and drunk driving. By working together, they discovered, everyone wins.

Early on, there was a meeting between the DABC and all the package agency owners. It was the first time this ever happened and everyone agreed it was long overdue. The assembly was successful and the group decided to meet on a semiannual basis. They also expanded the Advisory Board to include a wider array of stakeholders, such as mental health professionals, law enforcement and legislators.

The Purchasing Department has been liaising with restaurant associations and vendors to address questions and concerns. Licensing and compliance officers are frequently present to keep everyone up-to-date regarding the relevant laws and procedures. The most important part of the new paradigm has been video outreach.

“We have put together a series of videos explaining to licensees the changes in the liquor laws and what they need to do to stay compliant,” Wood says. “We have produced informative videos for the consumer that show how our product selection operates, and how to place a special order for a non-listed product.

The agency also created a short video called “A Day in the Life of DABC.” This illustrates a typical 17-hour day for the agency, beginning at 5:30 am in the warehouse and covering store deliveries, sales and everything in-between.

“The purpose was to show how much we do in a day and how hard our employees work,” Wood says. After screening it for the State’s legislative assembly, the agency’s budget was increased.

The DABC has listened carefully to what its customers and partners want, and they’ve implemented many suggestions. Vendors, for example, requested a more effective system of inventory management and greater access to sales information. In response, inventory protocols have been completely overhauled and sales data is now provided to vendors more systematically across a variety of platforms.

The state liquor business is now much more transparent, flexible and efficient. Both the stakeholders and the DABC are happier with the new arrangement, which has produced tangible results. “Our sales are increasing annually,” Wood says. “We see this as a positive beginning that will continue to grow.”•

 

Best Retail Innovation: New Hampshire Liquor Commission

By Jeremy Nedelka

In the last year, the NHLC greatly expanded its free, in-store wine and spirit tastings, offering customers thousands of opportunities to sample new products before they buy. The agency offers more than 11,000 wines and spirits at its Liquor & Wine Outlet stores, which serve 11 million customers per year.

“We’re committed to offering customers a variety of educational opportunities,” says Nicole Brassard-Jordan, the agency’s director of marketing, merchandising, warehousing and sales. “Tasting events and seminars are well-attended and enjoyed by consumers.”

The NHLC runs a number of large-scale tasting events, including the Winter Wine Spectacular and the Distiller’s Showcase, both of which sell out weeks in advance and attract thousands of customers. The agency’s store in Nashua – at 33,000 square feet the largest liquor store in northern New England – contains a Learning Center with multimedia systems, wifi, wet bar and room for nearly 50 people. Often, sessions at the Learning Center are expanded due to high customer demand.

“As we renovate and relocate Liquor & Wine Outlet locations, we’re always exploring the possibility of adding training spaces similar to the Learning Center in Nashua,” Brassard-Jordan says. “We have another store in Nashua with a full commercial kitchen as well, where we hold our In the Mix Kitchen Series.”

The culinary series features tastings from brokers and local restaurants, and will soon include cooking demonstrations with complementary wine and spirit tastings.

Between April 2017 and March 2018, the agency hosted more than 23 tastings per day at its stores across New Hampshire. During busy holiday periods, that translated to more than 1,000 per month (an exponential increase over the 100 tastings per month the NHLC held the year prior). In a state of only 1.3 million residents, that’s a lot of tastings.

The NHLC tracks metrics associated with its in-store tastings, including daily sales, coupon redemptions and transactions during time periods tied to specific events.

“As many in the industry will confirm, the ability to share product with consumers plays an important role in the customer’s purchasing decision,” Brassard-Jordan says.

Broker partners rely on in-store tastings as a crucial tool for introducing new products to consumers in a casual setting, and promoting seasonal products. In-store events often coincide with seasonal sales trends – for example, placing light wine and spirit tastings in the summer, with robust wines and spirits tasted in the winter.

“Our monthly promotions also play a key role in sales during our in-store tastings,” Brassard-Jordan says. “We often offer special sales on full cases of products, and customers take advantage of those discounts to stock up and purchase more wine than they might have normally.”

When it comes to determining what would make a successful tasting, the agency sees opportunities throughout its product portfolio.

“A wide variety of products lend themselves to tastings, seminars and in-store samplings,” Bressard-Jordan says. “From smaller brands to global, premium products, the educational aspect of the experience and the quality, passion and story behind the brand are all key contributors to a successful tasting.”•

 

Best Trade/Licensee Education Program: Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

By Adam Quandt

With new authorization from 2017’s Act 44 in Pennsylvania, a mix of collaboration and being proactive is the name of the game for the PLCB and its new Licensee Compliance Program.

Prior to Act 44, the PLCB had no enforcement authority and was limited to objecting to licenses only when they came up for renewal, which was every two years.

“Before the new legislation, there was absolutely no mechanism to do anything in the interim, leaving non-compliance issues to slip through the cracks,” PLCB Director of Legislative affairs Chris Herrington says.

Act 44 authorized the PLCB to conduct inspections for establishments at random, and immediately suspend a licensed establishment’s ability to sell and serve alcohol, when PLCB analysts determine the licensee does not meet license requirements related to seating, food, square footage, rooms and health license authority.

Under the program, inspections are conducted based on complaints from community members, legislators, law enforcement and other local and state agencies. Complaints are evaluated, logged and referred either as a compliance inspection or to enforcement authorities, depending on the complaint.

“The whole idea was designed specifically to ensure a place is operating as it should,” Herrington says.

Before inspections could begin, the PLCB was tasked with finding a way to educate licensees and the surrounding community about the new program and what was expected of them.

Starting in late November, the PLCB focused on educating licensees and community partners to ensure compliance with the regulations. This included outreach to and participation in town-hall style meetings with industry groups, local community groups, state legislators and attorneys across the state.

PLCB executives also worked closely with Senate and House leaders, whose constituents were concerned about liquor license compliance issues in their neighborhoods.

“Direct communication to licensees about the new program and media outreach were conducted in November to provide licensees some time to understand and come into compliance with license requirements prior to inspections beginning in January 2018,” PLCB Director of Policy and Communications Elizabeth Brassell says.

“We did our best to communicate to the licensee community and explain the program so we could be sure that there was understanding all around,” she adds.

Chief Counsel of the PLCB Rodrigo Diaz said that the board made a strong effort to ensure all members of the licensee community received the necessary information about the new program, including disseminating in multiple languages and various formats.

As another aspect of its education, the PLCB created a program website, www.lcb.pa.gov/licenseecompliance, as an information hub for licensees and Pennsylvania residents concerned about license compliance.

The website features fact sheets – which were translated into four languages other than English to meet local community needs – outlining the kinds of license compliance issues the PLCB will investigate, license requirements for various license types, licensees’ appeal rights and other necessary information.

PLCB Deputy Communications Director Heidi Geist says that since the inspections began on Jan. 1 (through Aug. 17, 2018), 81 inspections have been completed. While most licensees passed inspection, 21 licenses were suspended because of compliance deficiencies; all 21 have since remedied the deficiencies and passed re-inspection.

“It is the PLCB’s hope that in the interest of being responsible community partners, licensees will use the LCP to self-assess and ensure compliance with license requirements,” says Tisha Albert, Director of Regulatory Affairs. “Development and introduction of this program demonstrated the PLCB’s ability to react swiftly, even under pressure – and with no additional financial or personnel resources – and its willingness to engage stakeholders in the interest of fair and effective regulatory efforts.”

 

Best On-Premise Innovation: Alabama ABC Board

By Kyle Swartz

The mixology movement remains strong in Birmingham, Alabama. To support this local culture (and the bars and mixologists behind it), the Alabama ABC recently collaborated with the Birmingham United States Bartenders Guild chapter to identify 25 items to save from delisting.

These products included bitters, aperitifs, digestifs, aged rums, gins and mezcals. While their overall volume may be low, each was essential for bars and cocktail enthusiasts in Birmingham. Acknowledging this need, the Alabama ABC agreed to carry the identified items in the wholesale store, and then make them available by the bottle to all licensees in the Birmingham area.

The idea to support a regional cocktail scene first came from NABCA COO David Jackson. He called Brian Rodgers, Alabama ABC director of product management.

“I of course loved the idea and wanted Alabama to be the pilot to the program,” Rodgers recalls. “The original concept was to gather a group of bartenders from restaurants and bars in the state, and sit down with them to see if there were products that they wanted to work with but didn’t think they could get, or did not need a full case of.”

Rodgers, Jackson and Birmingham USBG officers convened on the subject. Naturally the officers were supportive. They left the meeting with a task: pick out the 25 must-have items, products that they could now obtain quicker and more consistently.

“You have to remember that most listing meetings are strictly with the state, the supplier and the supplier’s broker,” Rodgers explains. “Any licensee can call and request a case of product to order and we will locate it and order it. They do have to purchase the whole case. So the ability was there for these licensees to order it before. But this program allows them to purchase by the bottle and not have to wait an additional six to eight weeks to get it when they need it.”

On Alabama’s side, it took about three months to acquire the products and set up internal distribution. The next six months were a “test” that tracked results, Rodgers says.

In that time the program generated $83,000 in additional sales with the 49 participating accounts. It sold 2,314 additional bottles, with an average of 47 additional bottles per account, or an additional eight bottles per account per month.

“So far, [participants] have been purchasing the product and are really supporting the program,” Rodgers says.

There were logistical challenges. As chosen products came in, the state shipped them out — but sometimes it was difficult getting these items into Alabama in the first place. Reaching suppliers was not always easy.

NABCA helped locate supplier contacts, Rodgers says. “We made it easy as well,” he adds, “by selecting several wholesale stores across the state, and once the product arrived there, we updated the USBG officers and they rolled out the information to their members.”

Up next, the Alabama ABC plans to meet again with the Birmingham USBG to review the sales data and see if there are items they want to add or swap.

 

Best Consumer Education Program: Idaho State Liquor Division

By Adam Quandt

Underage drinking is at the forefront of many campaigns and education programs, most taking aim at the underage drinkers themselves. However, the Idaho State Liquor Division took aim at educating a different target, the purchasers.

The Idaho Office of Drug Policy, the Idaho State Liquor Division and 22 community prevention organizations across the state joined forces during the 2017 holiday season to educate parents and other adults about the consequences of providing alcohol to minors, with the “Think Twice or Pay the Price” campaign.

“This is an especially critical message during that time of year when alcohol sales peak and people tend to host more parties,” ISLD Education Manager Catie Wiseman says.

“The ISLD is proud to support this worthwhile effort that’s of great benefit to the entire Gem State,” Division Administrator Jeff Anderson said in a press release issued November 2017. “We know that underage drinking doesn’t start with a drink; it starts with an excuse by adults – the excuses they make when they think it’s harmless to provide beverage alcohol to underage people. ‘We did it when we were young.’‘It’s just beer.’ We’ve all heard the excuses. The bottom line is it’s not OK to give alcohol to people under 21.”

The youth-led “Sticker Shock” campaign, “Think Twice or Pay the Price,” let people know the trouble that awaits them if they’re caught providing alcohol to minors or allowing minors to consume alcohol in their home. Coalitions, law enforcement, community centers and youth all came together to place stickers on bags, and t-shirts were created for the liquor store staff to continue the message all year long.

Under Idaho law, parents can face up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines if they are caught providing alcohol to minors. This includes alcohol consumption they don’t even realize is happening, like when kids sneak drinks during a holiday party or drink while they hang out with friends in the basement rec room. Additionally, they can face a civil suit due to injuries stemming from drinking in their home.

Wiseman said that the goal was to just be out in the public and make people aware, saying that the state hadn’t necessarily seen a recent rise in underage drinking issues. “It’s just always been an issue,” she adds.

“We were approached by the Idaho Office of Drug Policy due to our work with sticker shock programs in the past,” Wiseman says. “We want to make a bigger impact in the state. We have the stores, the distribution and the people, and they have the media pieces and much more.”

Sixty-six state-owned stores and multiple contract stores opted to participate in the program for its first iteration, with members of law enforcement doing community outreach at various community centers.

With the success of the initial program, Wiseman says that all involved are planning to continue the campaign into the foreseeable future.  She adds that they intend to increase resources for the next campaign in hopes that more coalitions get involved, resulting in a wider reach.

“Anytime you can get your community partners, state agencies and law enforcement to work together for the greater good, just do it,” Wiseman says. •

 

Honorable Mention

We received so many entries for this year’s Best Practices Awards, it was very difficult to choose only one or two winners in each category. Below are examples of some agency programs that didn’t win, but are worth mentioning for the lessons they may provide to other control states.

Earlier this year, the DABC developed a new training program for on-premise licensees. The training is mandatory to obtain a new license or renew a license, and covers four main topics:

  •  Statutes and rules that govern alcohol sales
  •  Requirements for operating as a licensee
  •  Using compliance assistance from the department
  •  Topics determined to be beneficial to a license manager

During the first year, 37 trainings were held for 2,169 licensee managers. That covers about 50% of licensees in the state, and feedback so far has been very positive, according to the DABC.

The ISLD was concerned that its warehouse would run out of capacity in the next five years, so it engaged colleagues within the state and selected the Boise State University’s Executive MBA program to help. The team provided three options organized by cost and complexity for management to consider. The agency chose a combination of those recommendations and reconfigured the aisles, changed the vertical picking sequence and organized pick locations differently. The changes provided a more efficient workflow and an increase in warehouse pick locations by 87%, and the warehouse is on track to be functional for 15 more years.

In January, more than 60 of the world’s top winemakers came to New Hampshire for Wine Week, the NHLC’s annual weeklong celebration. The week features more than 100 events, including tastings, bottle signings, intimate wine dinners and a large wine expo. This year’s event also included “Cellar Notes: Women in Wine,” which featured a panel of female trailblazers in the wine industry. Customers asked the panelists questions while sampling four flights, as the panelists provided an overview of the grapes, tasting notes and historical background of the wines.

The 2017 holiday season’s “Bring Good Spirits” campaign featured door buster specials, a Black Friday sale and Cyber Monday discounts. For the first time, the agency had door buster sales in mid-November, featuring discounts of 15-20% off select products (limited to three bottles maximum). For the three days of the sale, total bottle sales rose 11.7% versus the prior year, and nearly 25,000 bottles of the door buster brands were sold.

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