The 2020 StateWays Best Practices Awards

This is the sixth year that StateWays is recognizing control jurisdictions for their innovative programs through the Best Practices Awards. Congrats to the overall winner, New Hampshire Liquor Commission, and all their fellow winners below:

Vermont Excels with New Education Coordinator

By Kyle Swartz

The Office of Education at the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery had a goal this past year: Institute a quality-improvement initiative to analyze, update and streamline its educational offerings. In accomplishing this, the DDL in October 2019 hired a new Education Coordinator, Erik Volk.

“I have an extensive background in adult education and instructional design, including over 25 years experience designing, conducting and delivering training of various types in various industries,” says Volk. “When this opportunity arose, it seemed like a unique opportunity to use my talents and experience to help make Vermont a safer place, and to offer some new ideas and perspective on how effective compliance education could be delivered.”

Shortly after his arrival, Volk and colleague Jennifer Fisher, training specialist, embarked on a comprehensive revamping of training materials. Among the improvements made to the programs since Volk’s arrival were revisions to in-person training presentations; creation of in-person training handouts; revamping in-house training manuals; restructuring of certification assessment questions; implementation of training evaluation forms; design and implementation of a training dashboard to measure training impact, volumes and quality; modification to online training content; resolution of ongoing technical issues with certain e-learning modules; filming of new training videos; creation of new photographic assets for training materials and a comprehensive plan to revamp the department’s widely-used In-House Training Program.  

The latter allows VT licensees to deliver training themselves to employees, using DDL materials at no additional cost.  

“The current program lacked structure and accountability, and resulted in some higher-than-desired compliance failure statistics,” says Volk. “To address that need, we have recently started requiring all licensees who deliver such training to register with us, attend a ‘Train the Trainer’ seminar and report training completion data to us.”

“We believe that this will increase communication between us and these licensees, increase accountability of those licensees, provide us much needed data about the volume of such training being delivered and generally will increase the quality of the training being delivered,” he adds.


The DDL will also implement virtual instructor-led training with integrated testing, enhancing their online course offerings to forge stronger partnerships with prevention coalitions and other community organizations throughout the state, to help assure the responsible sale and serving of alcohol and tobacco.

“With the assistance of my colleague Fisher, I hope to further modernize and streamline the compliance education processes currently in place and introduce some new and innovative education solutions to help keep Vermont at the forefront of educational innovation and effectiveness,” says Volk.

Iowa Wins Best Technology Innovation

By Kyle Swartz

The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division took home Best Technology Innovation for its Control State Scorecard. This cloud-based electronic tracking system provides near real-time information about inbound shipments.

Liquor suppliers and control state warehouses consistently deal with issues regarding inbound shipments. For instance: missed delivery appointments, improperly stacked pallets and incorrect labeling. The Iowa ABD believed there was a better way of tracking — and possibly reducing — these kinds of errors.

“The business concept for the scorecard came in late 2018, which led to a proof of concept being developed by ABD IT,” recalls COO Herbert H. Sutton, Jr. “I took this proof of concept and showed it to several suppliers and NABCA members in early 2019. There was a lot of excitement about this concept, and the decision was made by ABD business and IT to move forward with the Control State Scorecard as a cloud-based enterprise system.” 

Development of the new service as it exists today began in July 2019. 

The Control State Scorecard measures a supplier’s inbound shipments based on the percentage of on-time deliveries, Advance Ship Notice accuracy, Bill of Lading accuracy, the number of pallet reworkings required and various other data points. Photos record any errors, uploaded into the system for viewing by the supplier. All data points are combined to produce a total accuracy score for each supplier.

The Control State Scorecard is free to use for suppliers and control states. Suppliers can drill down and view information for individual shipments, compare their overall score to other suppliers and compare their performance in Iowa to their performance in another control state (if that state uses the Scorecard). To date, 23 suppliers actively utilize the Scorecard, and several control states are testing the potential use of the Scorecard in their jurisdictions.

“ABD is happy to make the system available to other control states and we built the system with that idea in mind,” says IT Administrator Martin Moen. “We also are looking at connecting the Control State Scorecard system with our SAS data analytics platform to add the data to agency dashboards and start analyzing inbound shipment trends with ABD sales data.”

Overall, the Control State Scorecard has improved inbound shipment accuracy in Iowa, has led to fewer meetings with suppliers regarding inbound shipping performance and has provided transparency so that suppliers can see when issues are occurring — and what those issues are — so they can be quickly remedied.

Montana Adds an Alcoholic Beverage Outreach Coordinator

By Kyle Swartz

The Montana Department of Revenue Alcoholic Beverage Control Division made our Best Practices list in 2020, winning for Best Stakeholder/Legislative Outreach Program.

During calendar year 2019, the department created a new Alcoholic Beverage Outreach Coordinator position to help licensees, the public, Montana communities, officials and other interested parties in understanding Montana’s alcoholic beverage laws and regulations.

the new Outreach Coordinator, Dacia English.

“Members of the public and even members of industry seemed to be lacking basic understanding of how the alcoholic beverage industry works in Montana,” says the new Outreach Coordinator, Dacia English. “ABCD wanted to be proactive with licensees in making sure they understood all of the laws and rules they need to operate within, so that we could help them to avoid violations in the future.”

English and the ABCD’s Education Specialist Kent Haab created two presentations to address the community’s needs. One presentation was specific to licensees, the public and anyone interested in Alcohol Beverage Laws and Rules. The other covered city officials and law enforcement. English and Haab engaged both audiences with the presentation, which included fun quizzes with prizes. “The audience was engaged and felt at ease to ask very insightful questions,” English says.

She has also been working with the DOR Communication Team to create Tid-bit-Tuesdays (information about alcohol beverage  licenses/code/etc.), Fact-Sheet-Fridays (Fact Sheets that have been created to provide licensee and public guidance on certain topics) and any other up-to-the-minute information that needs to be posted on DORs social media platforms. This work to provide information on social media in addition to more traditional methods of communication have never been more important than during the Covid 19 pandemic, English says. “The changes to the alcoholic beverage industry during the pandemic have come quickly. My use of social media has provided an additional vehicle to reach more people about these impactful changes.”

English was recently nominated for a Governor’s Award For Excellence for her outreach efforts. Her nomination states that “Dacia hit the ground running and was making great strides in this direction when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and she had to quickly shift her focus to helping get Division guidance out to licensees and the public regarding the Governor’s Directives . . . Dacia has done a wonderful job of helping the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division be more proactive with outreach and continues to work with other Division staff on ideas for future outreach efforts. Thank you Dacia for your positive attitude and your wealth of knowledge.”

The department’s alcoholic beverage outreach coordinator is available to Montana’s stakeholders to present at conferences, seminars and other special events.

Engaging Agency StoresBest Off-Premise Partnership

By Jeremy Nedelka

Throughout 2019 and 2020, the Ohio Division of Liquor Control created innovative programs to engage their Contract Liquor Agencies, or retail sellers. 

Ohio Liquor’s barrel program brought consumers to more than 250 agency stores to pick the latest of OHLQ’s 30 single-barrel selections. Raffles at agency stores across the state often attracted hundreds or thousands of consumers in a single night, helping showcase those stores to new customers. As a result, those stores usually saw a major lift in sales of other products like food, wine and beer.

Agency stores were also chosen at random to join OHLQ staff at various distilleries to select single-barrel products. Agency owners can tell consumers they helped pick the selection in their store, which is an incentive and acts as a “badge of honor” according to OHLQ. 

“Getting to vote on which barrels to taste, and after tasting, voting on which barrels will be bottled and released in Ohio was a really neat experience,” says agency manager Steph Heitkamp of her selection of a New Riff single barrel last August. “I was surprised that instead of being an observer, I was included in the process.”

By focusing on partners and highlighting their great work, OHLQ rewards the best of the best while incentivizing others to raise the bar so they can be the next ones recognized.

Runner Up: Barrel Selections Come to Life 

Ohio Liquor decided to immerse consumers in the process of whiskey education by inviting them to barrel selections at distilleries. They heard from master distillers, toured properties and learned about the process of making Bourbon. 

“I want to thank the OHLQ team for the awesome opportunity I had today. It really was something special that I’ll never forget,” said consumer Eric D., who attended an Old Forester selection.

Consumers were chosen through a contest run in Ohio’s Forty-Two+ magazine. Many of the winning consumers are still in touch with the agency months later, creating a lasting relationship where Ohio Liquor can continue gathering feedback and a unique perspective.

Virtual Seminars in Montgomery County

By Jeremy Nedalka

Beginning in March 2020, tastings were no longer allowed in retail stores due to COVID-19 concerns. As a result, the Montgomery County ABS marketing team organized free seminars on Zoom with industry professionals. The agency coordinated a number of free, weekly virtual seminars to educate retail consumers on products sold in the county’s retail stores.

The Montgomery County virtual seminars were promoted through social media and email blasts.

The virtual seminars were promoted through social media and email blasts, and were hugely popular according to the agency. Many reached their capacity of 100 registrants, and Montgomery County is planning to bring them back in the fall as a result. 

Due to their popularity, the agency set up a website to offer course registrations (which were previously handled through Facebook Messenger) and house recordings of previous sessions. For more information about Montgomery County’s virtual seminars, visit

Runner Up: A New Polling Solution (Trade Education)

Last spring, the Montgomery County ABS purchased a new polling system that keeps participants engaged during training events. The system combines intuitive software with wireless pads, and although it’s traditionally used during live trainings, it’s also easily adapted to online use.

The county’s staff trains thousands of license holders annually through the Alcohol Law Enforcement Regulatory Training (ALERT) program. In order to increase training efficiency, the agency wanted more information about participants. Now they can ask questions during the training sessions like “is your business on- or off-premise?” or “what is your job title?” 

Data reaches trainers in real-time so they can adapt to their individual audience. Data is also stored so it can be reviewed later to determine training effectiveness and make revisions.

Virginia Doubly Excels

By Jeremy Nedelka

Normally states are limited to winning a single Best Practices Award per year. However, we made an exception this year for the Virginia ABC because two of their entries were so strong. 

Scoring Suppliers

The agency’s logistics division launched an initiative two years ago called the “supplier scorecard,” and followed that up last year with the “carrier scorecard,” which measure supplier effectiveness at delivering product.

The VABC’s warehouse receives, processes and ships thousands of products to 389 retail stores around the state every week. The scorecards hold suppliers accountable for incidents and delays that disrupt distribution, and are used when the agency makes marketing and promotional decisions. Suppliers who score 95% or higher are also exempt from scorecard fees.

The scorecards have successfully decreased the number of supplier violations. In the first few months after they were introduced, there were 138 violations; over the past 12 months, that number has dropped to 70.

The carrier scorecards help differentiate when an appointment cancellation or no-show appointment is the fault of a carrier, and not the supplier. Suppliers still incur fees for those violations, but they have data that helps them make logistics decisions in the future. 

The VABC reports that the scorecard initiatives have created successful collaboration among the logistics, IT, marketing and retail divisions, which has resulted in constructive decisions on store inventory, product sales and promotions. 

September is Spirits Month

Each year, the VABC celebrates Virginia Spirits Month and National Bourbon Heritage Month with targeted online content and promotions on social media. Last year, the agency worked with the Virginia Distillers Association to feature two discount product days, “Virginia Spirits Day” and “Spirited Bourbon Day.” 

Both promotions included 10 products discounted 20% at ABC retail stores and online. The marketing campaign to promote these special days included printed material, radio ads and social media posts. As a result, each promotion reached more than 340,000 people, generated more than 800,000 impressions and drove more than 11,000 clicks to the agency’s website. 

Sales of the 10 Virginia spirits increased tenfold over the previous year, generating more than $100,000. Sales for the 10 bourbons increased more than 50 times, generating $385,000. As a result, both special days in September are also in the agency’s 2020 promotional calendar.

Idaho Creates Win-Win with Rare Whiskey

By Kyle Swartz

Our award for Best On-Premise Partnership went to the Idaho State Liquor Division in 2020 for their Rare Whiskey Release program.

This began in 2017 as an online lottery. In 2019, the ISLD expanded it to include partnerships with on-premise accounts to help cross-promote products. 

The first partnership included the ISLD, Beam Suntory and two on-premise accounts: The Whiskey Bar and The Reef. Each account sampled and selected rare whiskey barrels with the ISLD that were unique to Idaho. Each account promoted products and drove traffic to their locations for customers to purchase samples. This was a big part of the program, as store-product sampling was not allowed in Idaho at that time, recalls Ray Homen, deputy director, procurement and distribution.

“The idea came to life when we discussed how we could implement a ‘taste before you buy’ opportunity for Idaho consumers on these special release items,” Homen adds. “Partnering with on-premise accounts became a perfect tie-in.”

The Idaho Rare Whiskey Release program.

As part of the partnership, the ISLD followed with a store event — the first ever for the division. This took place in Boise on June 14, 2019, kicking off Father’s Day weekend. Nearly 300 bourbon whiskey enthusiasts attended the one-day event, which featured master distiller-signed bottles, whiskey education and an opportunity to purchase rare products. Rare bottles included Weller, E.H. Taylor, 1792, Wild Turkey Master Keep Series, Hibiki, Elmer Lee, Old Fitzgerald BIB and more.

Two other on-premise and store events in other districts soon followed. 

“On a few different occasions, the licensee account sold out of barrel release product on hand for the event and had to increase seating capacity,” says Homen. “In the store event, the number of consumers increased with each event, limited releases sold out quickly.”

The Rare Whiskey Release program proved a success, and future events were quickly lined up. Covid-19, however, forced changes.

“Store events were planned in all three districts in March, June and September 2020,” Homen says. “We had to pivot in March and only executed a private barrel release launch at retail stores across the state. We moved June’s store event to an August private barrel release launch at retail stores across the state.”

“We have plans to release more of the private barrel releases in September and October 2020,” he adds. “If all goes well with Covid, we plan to continue to build on the success of the store event in 2021. I am currently planning barrels releases for next year.”


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