ABL Updates: September 2020
By John Bodnovich, ABL Executive Director
ABL Urges Federal Government to Maintain Longstanding guidance on Moderate Alcohol Consumption
On August 13, American Beverage Licensees sent a letter to the Secretaries of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, opposing the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) recommendation that the federal government change longstanding guidance on moderate consumption of alcohol, recommending the daily guideline for men be reduced from up to two (2) drinks per day to up to one (1) drink per day.
As the letter states, “ABL and its members are committed to the responsible sale and service of alcohol products to legal consumers. Retail beverage licensees are trained professionals – as are the bartenders, servers and sales associates that they employee. They have built their businesses and customer service around established guidance on moderate consumption of alcohol, including the recommended daily guideline of up to two drinks per day for men and to up to one drink per day for women. This approach has worked well and provides consumers and industry alike with simple, commonsense parameters for moderate alcohol consumption.”
ABL pointed out that “At a time when the American public needs to be able to trust the government, it is reckless to base changes to the Dietary Guidelines on out-of-scope references, conclusions that are not based on the agreed upon process, and to go far beyond what would otherwise be called for by accepted science.
“ABL encourages USDA and HHS to preserve their credibility and consistency by maintaining the sound advice on moderate alcohol consumption found in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”
DC Update: Slim Chances for More Relief Before Elections
After months of negotiations (and posturing), the question has shifted from WHEN Congress will pass another COVID relief bill to WILL Congress pass another COVID relief bill AT ALL? ABL and others in Washington who are working on legislative initiatives to help their respective industries had hoped for a deal first in July, then by early August, and finally by mid-September, but the negotiating parties still can’t find common ground.
While House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House still appear to be far off on some of the bigger issues, ABL has been working with industry and coalition partners on targeted topics that have bipartisan support. These include tax relief for perishable food, grants to hospitality businesses, additional loan eligibility to small businesses (PPP “second draw”), COVID-19-specific liability issues and a handful of others.
There was some recent softening in negotiations wherein the White House signaled that the President would support a larger stimulus package, and Democratic leaders are discussing a smaller package that could be introduced in the House this week. But now that a heated Senate confirmation process is before us, getting a COVID-19 relief package done before members of Congress are scheduled to break for campaigning in October is increasingly slim.
What’s most unfortunate about this is that popular economic indicators - specifically the stock market - have little bearing on the prospects of local small businesses that are not publicly traded companies and face immediate needs due to the epidemic and state-imposed operating restrictions that are strangling their potential ability to generate revenue and jobs, and stay in business.
As we’ve said before, ABL will continue to draw attention to its members and the challenges they face, and fight to secure relief for them. As cliché as it may sound, much depends on the outcome of the elections in terms of when another stimulus bill will be seriously considered.
ABL Releases Updated COVID-19 Economic Impact Model
On September 23, American Beverage Licensees released an updated version of the ABL COVID-19 Impact Model including a guide and methodology that explains the model and how to use it. As the guide notes, “The COVID-19 impact model estimates changes in sales, employment, and wages for on- and off-premises alcoholic beverage retailers, as well as for the industries directly and indirectly affected by them.”
The model was developed by John Dunham & Associates (JDA), an economic research firm that conducted the comprehensive 2018 ABL Economic Impact study. The model is to be used by ABL members and affiliates to underscore the impact of the pandemic on their businesses as they seek aid and support due to the COVID-19 crisis. ABL encourages members of the SDLBDGA to share the figures with your governor, congressman, senators, state legislators, state Alcohol Beverage Control and the media.
On-Premise Licensees Fight to Stay Alive; Face Arbitrary Closures
We have now crossed the 6-month mark since the unofficial start of COVID-19 business closures in March that have devastated so many on-premise businesses in states across the country. Re-opening has moved slowly with the threat of RE-closure putting a strain on bars, taverns, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses that have been scraping and clawing to stay in business.
There is a lot of arbitrary policymaking taking place in states right now as governors, mayors and other officials grapple with how to slow coronavirus spread. Unfortunately, bars, taverns and restaurants have found themselves in the crosshairs of many of these decision-makers who are trying to “do something” – even if it is not based on any scientific evidence.
Licensees point to limited (and non-uniform) contact tracing across the states as problematic when making policies that include sweeping limitations on bars. Without accurate and scientific data, and the public disclosure of that data, it is unclear what some states are basing policy decisions on. And despite some bad actors that get the headlines, it appears from compliance check reports that the vast majority of bars are abiding state laws and regulations for social distancing and public health guidelines to prevent COVID-19 spread.
The random nature of these regulations has made it challenging to create a uniform response or strategy. Some bars and their associations have turned to the courts and filed lawsuits to reopen with larger capacities, regular hours, or indoor service. Others have been working with state lawmakers to forge a path toward financial viability, supporting legislation that would allow them to regain a foothold. Public relations efforts also continue.
ABL continues to gather information and share it with members, the public and policymakers so that bars and taverns can reopen as soon as possible and under reasonable modifications to save state economies and these small businesses. We can't lose sight of the economic crisis that bars and taverns are facing. We need these businesses to stay in business so that they can help lead us on the path to recovery by providing jobs and generating economic growth.
ABL Weighs in on Beer Losses Due to COVID-19
On September 25, American Beverage Licensees joined the Beer Institute, the Brewers Association and the National Beer Wholesalers Association in releasing a report from a leading economic firm showing more than 651,000 jobs supported by the U.S. beer industry will be lost by the end of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These job losses include more than 3,600 brewing jobs, 1,800 distributing jobs and 400,000 retail-related jobs.
“Even though the vast majority of bars and package stores have diligently followed COVID-19 regulations and guidelines so they can continue to serve their customers and communities, the unfortunate truth is many beer retailers have been forced to lay-off employees or close their doors altogether due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said John Bodnovich, executive director of American Beverage Licensees. “Bars & taverns that have been allowed to reopen are fighting to simply stay in business in the face of occupancy and hours of operation restrictions that have many teetering on the brink of collapse. These local businesses need Congress’ support and additional COVID-19 relief to survive, not the threat of tax increases on their industry.”
In 2018, the Beer Serves America study concluded America’s beer industry supports more than 2.1 million jobs, contributing more than $328 billion to the U.S. economy. The beer industry pays annually nearly $59 billion in taxes, meaning—on average—taxes account for 40% of the cost of a beer.