June 29, 2023
BETHESDA, MD – American Beverage Licensees (ABL) celebrated its 21st anniversary of representing independent on- and off-premise beer, wine and spirits retailers at the ABL Annual Meeting earlier this month in St. Louis, Missouri. With the meeting taking places just steps from Busch Stadium, the meeting’s theme of “Swinging for the Fences” was underscored by the messages of meeting speakers who shared information and ideas on how beverage licensees can boost their businesses, their state associations, and their industry.
ABL Annual Meeting attendees heard from an array of speakers from the public and private sectors who covered a wide range of topics. Industry economist Lester Jones of the National Beer Wholesalers Association shared his insights on both macroeconomic issues and industry-level economic topics. Stephanie Badger of the Merchants Payments Coalition briefed on the newly introduced Credit Card Competition Act and how beverage retailers can engage members of Congress with grassroots lobbying. Two security-related presentations – one from the “O.G. of Cannabis Security” Tony Gallo, and another from nightlife security consultant Robert Smith – discussed how high-risk businesses should implement security measures and how they can and should prepare and plan for an active shooter situation, respectively.
From the industry trade association world, Bill Young of the Beer Institute discussed the evolving public health policy landscape for alcohol, and Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of American general counsel Jake Hegeman presented on the current legal climate as well as federal trade practices and cannabis legislation. Chris Shepard from Beer Marketers Insights closed the conference by opening his reporter’s notebook to discuss a wide range of topics making headlines and how they are being reported in trade media and perceived by the public.
ABL recognized Jim Ryan, Senior Vice President for Constellations Brands, with the ABL Top Shelf Award, the association’s highest honor. Jim, who is concluding a 47-year career in the beer industry, has been a long-time friend to ABL and its bar, tavern and package store members as a representative of Constellation Brands, the Beer Institute, and the National Association of Beverage Importers. ABL also recognized the 2023 Retailers of the Year, honoring those beverage retailers who excel in advocacy; responsible sales and service; community engagement; and support of their state retail beverage associations.
In addition to conference support from e-commerce solutions provider City Hive, American Distilled Spirits Alliance and Molson-Coors, meeting attendees participated in a tour and tasting experience at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, where they learned about the history of the brewing icon. The meeting also featured the support of 25 leading distillers and spirits brands.
The ABL Board of Directors elected a slate of new leaders to join those continuing their service on the ABL Executive Committee. Joining the ABL Executive Committee are Terry Harvath of The Wishing Well Bar & Grill in Appleton, Wisconsin who will serve as Vice President – On-Premise; Ben Weiner of Sav-Mor Spirits in Somerville, Massachusetts who will serve as Vice President – Off-Premise; Mat Dinsmore of Wilbur’s Total Beverage in Fort Collins, Colorado who will serve as Treasurer; and Jay Gesner of Souse’s Lounge in Rockford, Illinois who will serve as an At-Large member of the Executive Committee. These newly elected ABL officers bring a wealth of business and association experience to their new roles having all served as Presidents of their state retail beverage associations.
They join President Bobby Greenawalt of B&B Beverage Management in Auburn, Alabama; Vice President – Off-Premise Josh Hammond of Buster’s Liquors & Wines in Memphis, Tennessee; Vice President On-Premise Steve Morris of Jorgenson’s Restaurant & Lounge in Helena, Montana; At-Large representative Keith Kern of Jimmy’s Saloon in Superior, Wisconsin; and immediate Past-President J.J. Moran, of the Four Winds Liquor & Lounge in Cheyenne, Wyoming.