Thursday, February 9, 2012

Payola

I got put onto this story from the US yesterday. Basically it touches on what seems to be a recurring scandal in the brewing industry there - that brewers or distributors will make illegal payments to get bars to put their beers on.

If one assumes that their anti-inducement rules generally work, in spite of all the issues people like Flying Dog have, then they must play a part in the explosive growth of independent brewing there.

As much as we like how well the New Zealand brewing industry is doing, it has never had the gold-rush feel of the US industry. Surely it's the hospitality industry (i.e. bars) who are the obstacle. Because what's illegal in the US is a cornerstone of the hospitality industry here.

Every now and then there's an appeal for some kind of tax-break or special treatment for craft brewers. (Because, you know... defining who is a craft brewer is dead easy and a large industrial brewer would never have their lawyers find a way for the tax-break to apply to them.)

But surely the single best way to get beer that we like (trying to avoid saying "craft") into New Zealand bars is to outlaw the ways that DB and Lion tie the bars down? We have government and private institutions dedicated to making sure New Zealand's economy is competitive but they won't even look at a practice that is all about using inducements to eliminate competition. And if competition law doesn't get them, surely contractual penalties for not selling a minimum volume of beer breach the Sale of Liquor act.

Seriously - why do Lion and DB get away with what they do without a whisper?