2018 ABL Annual Meeting a Success

Beverage Retailers from Across the Country Join ABL in New Orleans for Association’s 16th Annual Meeting

March 19, 2018 – Bethesda, MD – Beverage retailers and their hospitality industry partners from across the country joined together in New Orleans, Louisiana on March 11-13 for American Beverage Licensees’ (ABL) 16th Annual Meeting. Speakers addressed a wide range of topics and themes impacting beverage retailers, including: impaired driving; music licensing; technology; the alcohol retail landscape; industry and legal updates; policy, regulation and licensing; and other hot topics in retail.

“The past year has a seen a number of major shifts in areas directly affecting beverage retailers – from mergers and acquisitions in the producer and distributor tiers, to impaired driving and regulatory and policy changes at the state and federal level,” said ABL Executive Director John Bodnovich. “The breadth and scope of this year’s programming reflects these changing times and ABL’s efforts to position our members for success in navigating the future of the beverage alcohol marketplace.”

Tom Cole, President & CEO of Republic National Distribution Company (RNDC), delivered the keynote address and shared his unique perspective on industry issues, including the recently announced merger of RNDC with Breakthru Beverage Group. The next speaker was Brandy Nannini, Vice President – Government Relations & Traffic Safety for the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, who discussed a range of policy updates and newly-released reports related to traffic safety and impaired driving.

Attendees also heard from Elizabeth Frazee, Co-Chair of the MIC Coalition, who provided an update on the current state of music licensing – including a number of bills currently before Congress. Closing out the morning’s general sessions, Cris Fowler, Vice President – SMB Sales for ECR Software Corp. and Paul Fisher, Vice President – Sales for Intellicheck, provided attendees with overviews on how retailers can best utilize technology in their businesses – from payment processing to age verification systems.

The afternoon sessions began with presentations from Jim McGreevy, President & CEO of the Beer Institute and Kraig R. Naasz, President & CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council, who shared their thoughts on recent policy developments impacting producers including federal excise tax changes; possible aluminum tariffs; and third-party market research on consumer trends and preferences. They were followed by Rick Garza, Director of the Washington State Liquor & Cannabis Board, who discussed the regulatory perspective of privatizing the state’s liquor market and how regulators developed a regulatory infrastructure for legal adult-use cannabis.

Danelle Kosmal, Vice President – Beverage Alcohol Practice at Nielsen, and Matthew Crompton, Associate Client Director at Nielsen-CGA, discussed the “new normal of the alcohol retail landscape” in a presentation reviewing the results and trends from a recent survey of more than 15,000 beverage retailers. For the day’s final session, Chris Furnari, Editor of Brewbound, discussed the significant changes in the beer industry that have taken place since 2010 and what is to be expected in the coming years.

Opening the second and final day of the ABL Annual Meeting was Jim Webster, Managing Partner of Webster Powell P.C., who shared his perspective on recent and ongoing legal cases that have a direct impact on beverage retailers, and what alcohol law challenges may be next on the docket. Jim was followed by Jake Hegeman, Vice President – Legal & Regulatory Affairs for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America and Paul Pisano, Senior Vice President & General Counsel for the National Beer Wholesalers Association, who provided attendees with updates on recent developments and trends related to policy, regulation and licensing, and how business owners can work with regulators and legislators to ensure a robust marketplace and level playing field for all.

Bringing all the presentations together and synthesizing what it all means for ABL members, the Retail Hot Topics Panel provided attendees with insights into issues and trends for both on- and off-premise beverage retailers. The session was moderated by ABL President Steve Morris and featured a panel of four retailers who fielded a range of questions from the moderator and audience: Jodi Blakley, Owner of the Mecca Bar in Fairbanks, AK; Terry Harvath, Owner of the Wishing Well Bar & Grill in Appleton, WI; David Jabour, President of Twin Liquors in Austin, TX; and Mac Thurston, President & General Manager of Mac’s Beer & Wine in Atlanta, GA.

In addition to the informational and educational sessions, the 2018 ABL Annual Meeting provided ABL with the opportunity to recognize 16 retail beverage businesses from across the country for their leadership and outstanding examples they set for beverage retail. These businesses and their owners were each recognized as a 2018 Brown-Forman Retailer of the Year and were presented their awards at the 2018 ABL Honors Gala. Also honored at the evening’s gala was Mark Brown, President & CEO of Sazerac, who was presented with the 2018 ABL Top Shelf Award, the highest honor presented by America’s beer, wine and spirits retailers, and which recognizes those who have demonstrated professional excellence in the beverage alcohol industry and have had a positive influence in their community.

The ABL Board of Directors also elected four beverage licensees to the ABL Executive Committee during the Annual Meeting. These individuals, each serving two-year terms, will lead the association towards meeting its strategic goals and initiatives. The new officers include:

Treasurer: Mat Dinsmore | Wilbur’s Total Beverage | Ft. Collins, CO
Vice President Off-Premise: Bob Kreston | Kreston Wine & Spirits | Wilmington, DE
Vice President On-Premise: Terry Harvath | The Wishing Well & Bar & Grill | Appleton, WI
At-Large: Jeff Vogt | JV’s Downtown Bar & Grill | Waterloo, IL

They join the existing members of ABL’s Executive Committee:

President: Steve Morris | Jorgenson’s Inn & Suites | Helena, MT
Immediate Past President: Warren Scheidt | Cork Liquors | Columbus, IN
Vice President – On-Premise | J.J. Moran | Four Winds Liquor & Lounge | Cheyenne, WY
Vice President – Off-Premise | Paul Santelle | Garden State Discount Liquors | Perth Amboy, NJ
At-Large: Robert “Bubba” Sprenger | Bubba’s | Marion, WI

ABL thanks the following 2018 ABL Annual Meeting Event & Honors Gala Sponsors: B4; Bacardi USA; Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye; Bayou Rum; Bluecoat American Dry Gin; Brown-Forman; Bushmills Red Bush Irish Whiskey; Constellation Brands; Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka; Don Q Grand Anejo; Few Spirits; Glenfiddich; Hendrick’s Gin; Koskenkorva Vodka; National Association of Beverage Importers; MillerCoors; Southern Comfort; Presidents’ Forum of the Distilled Spirits Industry; Texas Package Stores Association; Tito’s Handmade Vodka; Wild Turkey Bourbon; and Window Jane Bourbon.