RELEASE: Independent Alcohol Retailers React to Alcohol Industry Competition Report

February 9, 2022 – Bethesda, MD – American Beverage Licensees (ABL) Executive Director John Bodnovich issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s report on competition in the alcohol industry:

“The Treasury’s report on alcohol industry competition importantly notes ‘the intersection of the 21st Amendment and the Commerce, Contract, and Equal Protection Clauses leaves the alcohol market subject to both state and federal oversight, each with its own focus.’  The report adds that when it comes to alcohol, ‘federal regulation does not necessarily pre-empt state regulation in the same way as it does for other commodities,’ and it acknowledges that ‘the three-tier system is not a federal creation.’

Independent beverage retailers agree.

However, for the report to suggest that ‘state legislatures might consider if the benefits of the three-tier system outweigh its costs to competition and study markets without a three-tier system’ ignores the fact that states already thoroughly examine their alcohol laws on an annual basis, debating and modifying them in state legislatures to best meet the needs of public safety, consumers, businesses, and the state.  In fact, more than 2,600 alcohol bills have been passed in state legislatures since 2012.

Non-three-tier markets around the world do not offer anywhere near the variety of competition among both reliable and innovative products for consumers as U.S. state alcohol markets, nor do they provide the same level of reliability when it comes to preventing counterfeit, tainted or illegal alcohol products.

The report identifies horizontal competition issues within non-retail tiers of the industry but does not address anti-competitive policies advanced under the guise of supporting small suppliers, which can create tilted inter-tier competition for traditional retail market participants.  These efforts function as trapdoors to industry deregulation and threaten the vertical integrity of beverage alcohol markets.

With states operating under various types of three-tier systems, creating markets in which differently licensed alcohol businesses are granted the same or similar privileges, thus giving an advantage to those firms that control the product, and disadvantaging those firms that are required by law to purchase the product through a regulatory framework, is anticompetitive.

It is also troubling that when examining ‘direct-to-consumer’ shipping of alcohol, the report relies extensively on a nearly 20-year-old Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wine report that is ‘based on a study of one local market.’  Reaching conclusions on a topic as complex and nuanced as direct-to-consumer sales demands a more thorough analysis and, as the report notes, ‘is best addressed by a democratically-elected legislature.’

The report’s authors do rightly recognize a growing and challenging reality when it comes to independent beverage retailers’ ability to compete in a marketplace:

One obvious gap in the FAA Act scheme is its lack of rules for retailers. Apart from the consignment sale provisions, the prohibitions do not apply, on their face, to retailers. When a retailer proposes or requires participation in a pay-to-play scheme in violation of the rules, the Bureau may only take enforcement action against the wholesalers or producers who participate, as opposed to taking action against the retailer…The problem is made worse by the fact that many retailers appear to have considerable market power today (e.g., national grocery and restaurant chains and large event venues, in contrast to the independent local saloon discussed in the legislative history). When retailers demand sufficiently large, up-front cash payments that competitors cannot easily match, those demands have the potential to raise rivals’ costs and effectively exclude them from the market.

Beverage licensees welcome a discussion about how the TTB can ‘provide greater clarity (on) what it considers to be conduct that, by its nature, fulfills an element of a violation’ and ‘consider adding to its categorical approach by further specifying practices that threaten retailer independence, particularly focusing on practices that result in exclusion.’  Sharpening the focus of trade practice enforcement – including category management and tied-house arrangements – is warranted.

A balance of competition, regulation, innovation, and entrepreneurship has created a vibrant beverage alcohol industry with hundreds of thousands of competitors that delightfully “is somewhat unusual in the contemporary U.S. economy, in which many markets are dominated by a small number of national brands.”  Beverage retailers look forward to working with federal officials on competition issues within the beverage alcohol industry to ensure that vibrancy continues to flourish.”



ABL Cancels 2021 Annual Meeting in New Orleans

BETHESDA, MD – August 27, 2021 – American Beverage Licensees (ABL) Executive Director John Bodnovich issued the following statement on the cancellation of the 2021 ABL Annual Meeting, scheduled for October 17-18, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana:

“After weeks of careful consideration and monitoring of the COVID-19 pandemic and surging Delta variant, ABL leadership has been forced to cancel the 2021 ABL Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The health and safety of our members and meeting attendees remains our paramount concern. The severity of the threat of the highly contagious Delta variant has compelled both the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans to require mask-wearing in stores and other indoor venues, with the city of New Orleans implementing proof of vaccination or negative COVID test requirements for nearly all hospitality activities in the city.

We know that many of you have been looking forward to this event, including enjoying the unique hospitality culture of New Orleans, and seeing your friends and colleagues in-person.  We share in your disappointment.

ABL will automatically cancel and fully refund all paid registrations in the next 10 business days.  Those who have booked hotel rooms should contact the Hilton New Orleans – St. Charles Ave to cancel room reservations.

We thank you for your understanding and support as we all continue to navigate these challenging times.  When confirmed, ABL will formally announce information about the next ABL Annual Meeting.”


Bars & Taverns Face Long Road Back from Pandemic Damage

During National Tavern Month This May: Support Your Local Bars & Taverns

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                             

May 7, 2021      

BETHESDA, MD — After more than a year of shutdowns, layoffs and unprecedented challenges, America’s bars and taverns are starting to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.  But despite recent improvements, these small businesses still face a long road back to recovery.

This May, in the spirit of National Tavern Month, American Beverage Licensees (ABL) and its members are calling on everyone to do their part to help local bars and taverns get back in the business of serving their communities.

“It’s understandable that we all want to move forward and put the last year behind us,” said ABL Executive Director John Bodnovich.  “But in doing so, we must keep in mind that many local bars and taverns remain in need of relief and support as they look to re-hire, re-supply, re-train and re-open at sustainable business levels.”

From March 2020 through March 2021, bar and restaurant sales of beer, wine and spirits declined by $90 billion.  This amounts to a loss of 8.3 billion 12-ounce servings of beer; 4.0 billion 5-ounce glasses of wine; and 10.9 billion 1.5-ounce spirits cocktails.  These staggering losses were accompanied by the loss of over 1.1 million on-premise jobs and more than $29 billion in lost wages for bar and restaurant workers.  (Source: John Dunham & Associates. American Beverage Licensees COVID-19 Impact Model.)

“We’re asking everyone – from the White House to our friends, family and neighbors – to lend a hand in supporting America’s Main Street hospitality businesses,” said Bodnovich.  “Everyone can do their part – in big ways and small – to help these ‘friendliest places in town’ get back to what they do best: providing jobs and offering a ‘third place’ for people to gather and share their favorite beverages and conversation.”

“We may have been physically distant for much of the past year, but if we’ve learned anything from this terrible pandemic, it’s that the need to be socially connected remains as important as ever.”

There are many ways in which to support local bars and taverns now and as the country emerges economically and socially from the COVID-19 crisis:


  • White House – Federal government agencies like the Small Business Administration (SBA) are working with bars and taverns to make sure they can access grant funds, loans and other small business relief measures. Others, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are tasked with helping businesses know how to reopen responsibly.  By streamlining loan and grant processes for busy bar and tavern owners, and by providing clear guidelines to businesses and the public, the Administration can help businesses get moving again and build consumer confidence in safely visiting their favorite bar or tavern.


  • Congress – Thanks to programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), Congress has given many bar and tavern businesses a fighting chance to continue to serve as job providers and engines in the service economy. But the work is not finished.  By passing the RESTAURANTS Act (H.R. 793; S. 255) and the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act (H.R. 1346; S. 477), Congress can help bars and taverns with grants and tax credits to get back to stability and running their businesses.


  • State Governments – Bar and tavern groups have worked with their governors, legislators, and regulators to navigate regulatory and policy paths to survive during the pandemic. These relationships and communications need to remain robust to ensure that public officials fully understand the hospitality industry, the professionalism of its practitioners, and how best to help it thrive.


  • Industry – While others in the beverage alcohol industry were able to pivot their business approaches during the pandemic, bars and taverns had limited options to change their business models. Now with reopening, on-premise businesses are eager to see product availability and a level of account service from their wholesaler and supplier partners that will help them promote and provide trusted and new products to consumers, benefitting the entire industry.


  • Guests – Like a professional athlete making a comeback, getting back to “normal” may take some time as bars and taverns re-open under different public health guidelines and operating procedures. Keep in mind that a little bit of patience and empathy for local small businesses as they manage these transitions goes a long way.


This May, join ABL and state associations representing bars and taverns in supporting Main Street businesses as they fight to keep serving their communities.  With the help of their customers, communities, industry and elected leaders, local bars and taverns will overcome the challenges of COVID-19 and continue the great American traditions of conviviality and hospitality at what remains the Friendliest Place in Town, your local tavern.


ABL Statement on President-elect Biden’s Coronavirus Economic Plan

January 15, 2021

BETHESDA, MD – American Beverage Licensees (ABL) Executive Director John Bodnovich issued the following statement regarding President-elect Joe Biden’s announced coronavirus economic plan:

“We are encouraged that President-elect Biden understands the need for more federal support of Main Street hospitality businesses and is willing to work with legislators in Congress to bring relief to those that have been among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Bars, taverns and restaurants have persevered through closures and operating restrictions, investing in new public health precautions to operate safely; adapting their businesses to new market dynamics to meet customers’ needs; and scraping to keep their employees on the payroll.  Now, as they are shouldering significant debt and with closures persisting during winter months, a reckoning is coming for many of these small business owners.

“Despite gains on Wall Street and in other sectors, in December employment in bars and restaurants declined by 372,000 jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  This sharp loss demonstrates that hospitality businesses remain in danger.  Local bars and restaurants require targeted aid if they are to get back on their feet and survive.

“Whether through legislation like the RESTAURANTS Act or another measure that directly addresses the challenges bars and restaurants face, Congress has the opportunity to move the hospitality industry closer to the economic recovery that is projected in President-elect Biden’s plan.

“Beverage licensees are eager to work with President-Elect Biden’s Administration and Congress to save America’s bars and restaurants.  Investing in the survival of bars and restaurants will help invigorate the Main Street economies that states, cities and towns rely on for their own economic well-being, and assist communities in helping build back the hospitality industry better than ever before.”

ABL Welcomes Passage of COVID-19 Package; Relief Still Needed for Bars, Taverns

December 22, 2020 – BETHESDA, MD – Beer, wine and spirits licensees – especially on-premise bars, taverns and restaurants – welcomed the long overdue COVID-19 relief package that Congress passed on Monday, which will finally deliver some aid to local bars and taverns struggling to keep their doors open ten months into the coronavirus pandemic.  Additional Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding, expansion of the employee retention tax credit as well as the business meal tax deduction, and money to help struggling independent music venues will provide some relief to a slice of the hospitality industry.

However, by omitting the RESTAURANTS Act from the legislation, this relief package falls short, and does not provide the support needed to help save Main Street bars, taverns and restaurants that have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic.

“Every bit of aid helps, but let’s be clear: this is not nearly enough to save America’s bars and taverns as we know them,” said American Beverage Licensees (ABL) Executive Director John Bodnovich.  “Just as it did for the automobile industry during the Great Recession, Congress had the chance to provide a devastated industry a lifeline by passing the RESTAURANTS Act.  Sadly, many local bars and taverns are now all but guaranteed to shutter their businesses, lay off their employees and leave a hole in their communities.”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, bar and tavern shutdowns and operating restrictions are increasing, causing more of these local businesses to close their doors for good. Despite rising stock market indexes, the modest economic rebound experienced in recent months has been uneven across industries and not reflective of the state of the bar and restaurant business.

From March through December 2020, bar and restaurant sales of beer wine and spirits are expected to decline by $74 billion.  This amounts to a loss of 52.7 million 12-ounce servings of beer; 3.3 billion 5-ounce glasses of wine; and 8.8 billion 1.5-ounce spirits cocktails.  These staggering losses in beverage alcohol sales are accompanied by the loss of over 909,000 on-premise jobs and more than $24 billion in lost wages for bar and restaurant workers.[1]

“While not deemed ‘essential services’, bars and taverns are unquestionably essential for the millions of people they employ.  We need them to be able to keep their doors open so they can lead what we hope is a strong economic recovery from the pandemic,” said Bodnovich.

Faced with a patchwork of closure orders and operating restrictions, bars, taverns and restaurants have taken unprecedented measures and spent thousands of dollars to makes sure they are keeping their customers and employees safe.  Yet despite these diligent, good faith investments, many bar owners feel unfairly targeted and scapegoated by state and local governments that have failed to provide contact tracing evidence that shows that closing bars and restaurants is an effective means of COVID mitigation – especially when the alternative has often become large private parties and gatherings where no prevention measures or public safety regulations are enforced.

“While this relief package did not go far enough to adequately address COVID-19’s impact on the hospitality industry, bar and tavern owners will look to build on this step and continue to work with members of Congress, the White House and other hospitality industry groups to secure the pandemic relief that is needed to save America’s bar and tavern businesses,” said Bodnovich.


[1] John Dunham & Associates. American Beverage Licensees COVID-19 Impact Model. New York, September 2020.

Package Liquor Stores Are Safely Serving Their Communities During COVID-19

Holiday Week Highlights Package Liquor Store Month this November 


November 24, 2020 – BETHESDA, MD – As Americans find safe ways to “gather”, give thanks and kick-off the holiday season this week, American Beverage Licensees (ABL) is reminding everyone that America’s package liquor stores are doing their part to safely and responsibly serve their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.


November is Package Liquor Store Month, and this week presents consumers with an opportunity to visit their local beer, wine and spirits shop to find drinks to pair with their favorite Thanksgiving foods.  The holiday week also includes “Black Friday”, when many shoppers traditionally head out to purchase beverage gifts for their friends and families, as well as “Small Business Saturday”, when many will make a point to support beverage merchants by shopping local.


Package stores, which traditionally sell beer, wine and spirits and, in some cases, food items and other goods, have been deemed “essential businesses” by governments in nearly every state during the COVID-19 pandemic.  With an essential designation has come the responsibility of following enhanced public safety guidelines to make sure their employees and customers can safely shop for their favorite brands.


‘New Normal’ Means Adapting to a Changed Marketplace


The holiday season is the busiest time of the year for package liquors stores, but for many it will be a continuation of a busy year thanks to a shift in beer, wine and spirits consumption from on-premise occasions to adults enjoying beverages at home.  Managing increases in customer counts – and changes to how consumers purchase beverage alcohol – have required agility and flexibility from what are otherwise strictly regulated businesses.  State regulatory changes that have expanded – and in some states required – curbside sales, or in other states permitted local delivery, mean that liquor stores have had to invest in these labor-intensive operations to safely serve shoppers.


Package liquor stores are also adapting to the growth of e-commerce, with many improving their digital point-of-sales platforms and increasing their online presence for those customers who choose to shop online.  By creating a more robust online presence, traditional beverage retailers are doing virtually what they have always done in their stores: introducing consumers to a vast assortment of trusted brands and new and exciting products.  Package stores carry a wide selection of products – local, national and imported – and as dedicated beverage alcohol experts provide a level of service and information about products that makes a trip to the local package liquor store something to look forward to.


Public Safety Emphasis Not New for Liquor Stores


Liquor store owners and operators have always been committed to responsibility by training employees to comply with state laws, verifying shoppers’ ages by checking identification, and working with elected officials, regulators, law enforcement and other community leaders to make sure they are doing their part to keep alcohol out of underage hands.  They know that no sale is worth risking their standing in their community.


Now, another leg has been added to the responsibility stool as beverage retailers are charged with keeping their staff and customers safe from a deadly virus.  By and large, America’s beverage retailers have answered the call.


Many individual off-premise beverage licensees have spent tens of thousands of dollars to regularly clean their stores, provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff, offer hand sanitizer and masks to customers, and change their business models to accommodate the concerns and wishes of their guests.  Whether re-routing aisles in their stores, hiring greeters to monitor store capacity, or working with their team members to make sure they feel protected, “safe is the new normal” for package liquor stores.


Package store owners have also been thrust into the politics of mask-wearing, with some facing physical attacks on their staff by customers who disagree with their store policies.  Retailers have adopted firm policies for mask-wearing and age verification to make sure they are following state COVID guidelines, treat guests fairly and equally, and protect their frontline employees from the coronavirus and physical harm.


Advocating for the Best Alcohol Marketplace in the World


Since the onset of the pandemic, package stores and their state associations have been working with governors’ offices and state regulators to allow hospitality businesses to continue to serve their communities.  Through ABL and directly, they have been advocating for federal relief for local small businesses and their employees, including for their bar and tavern colleagues who have born the brunt of the pandemic’s economic devastation.  At stake is a retail beverage alcohol industry that includes hundreds of thousands of businesses, over 2 million jobs, $122 billion in economic activity and $27 billion in taxes.


American package stores provide a greater selection of beer, wine and spirits than any other country in the world while fostering innovation, competition and responsibility.  They operate day-in and day-out in an orderly, state-regulated alcohol system that has successfully balanced access with accountability, product choice with product safety, and customer service with community awareness.


As we give thanks this week, ABL encourages everyone to take a moment to recognize their local wine shops, liquor stores, beer stores and package stores, whose owners, operators and staff turn the key to open and close their Main Street essential businesses every day.


ABL Elects Officers for 2020-2022

July 30, 2020

BETHESDA, MD – American Beverage Licensees (ABL) elected officers to two-year terms at the association’s 18th Annual Meeting in July.  Officers elected were Mat Dinsmore of Wilbur’s Total Beverage in Fort Collins, Colorado, Treasurer; Juan Negrin of Super Wine Warehouse in Paterson, New Jersey, Vice President Off-Premise; Jay Gesner of Souse’s Lounge in Rockford, Illinois, Vice President On-Premise; and Terry Harvath of Wishing Well Bar & Grill in Appleton, Wisconsin, At-Large Representative.

“The newly-elected officers provide a diverse set of beverage alcohol retail experience, with perspectives of on- and off-premise independent operators,” said J.J. Moran, ABL President and owner of the Four Winds Liquor & Lounge in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  “Mat, Juan, Jay and Terry are long-serving volunteer leaders of the ABL Board of Directors and their state associations, and I am grateful that I’ll have their wisdom and guidance on the ABL Executive Committee.”

In addition to Moran, the new officers will join the ABL Executive Committee with Bobby Greenawalt of B&B Bartending in Auburn, Alabama, Vice President On-Premise; Chris Marsicano of The Village Supper Club in Delavan, Wisconsin, Vice President On-Premise; Warren Scheidt of The Cork in Columbus, Indiana, At-Large Representative; and Steve Morris of Jorgenson’s Restaurant & Lounge in Helena, Montana, Past-President.  John Bodnovich is Executive Director of ABL.

ABL advocates for public policy on behalf of its 13,000 bar, tavern and package members in 28 states, working in Washington, DC and supporting its state retail alcohol association affiliates with information and relationships with retail licensees and across the broader alcohol and hospitality industry.  ABL is led by an active board of directors representing ABL’s state affiliates.  The board annually elects four officers to two-year terms, wherein they join current ABL officers in leading the association toward meeting its strategic goals.


ABL Statement on States Re-closing Bars and Taverns

June 30, 2020

BETHESDA, MD – American Beverage Licensees (ABL) Executive Director John Bodnovich issued the following statement regarding states re-closing bars and taverns due to COVID-19:

“After being shut down for up to 100 days in some states, laying off their employees and suffering devastating financial losses, bar and tavern owners have taken steps to safely reopen their businesses in compliance with state government guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  This has included implementing new public health safety policies, rehiring and retraining employees, purchasing PPE for staff and other products to deeply clean their businesses, as well as restocking beer, wine, liquor and food to serve their customers.

“Now, just before the Fourth of July weekend, these hospitality businesses are being singled out in some states, forced to close their doors again and shoulder a disproportionate share of the blame for spikes in coronavirus cases.  Picking on bars and creating an unlevel playing field is not the solution, especially when other newly reopened non-essential businesses such as restaurants and elective surgery centers are given a pass and can remain open.  Bars and taverns have a vested interest in keeping the marketplace safe for customers and urge state and local governments to acknowledge that with their policies.

“Governors, legislators, mayors and other government officials must understand that bars and taverns absolutely cannot close and reopen at the flip of a switch, and they cannot afford to invest in the supplies, products and people needed to reopen only to be closed again right away.  If they are to survive, they need a level playing field with other hospitality businesses, regulatory certainty so they can develop COVID-19 business plans, and economic support from policymakers if shutdowns are to continue.”


ABL Statement Applauding Passage of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act

June 4, 2020

BETHESDA, MD – American Beverage Licensees (ABL) Executive Director John Bodnovich issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Senate’s passage of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (H.R. 7010):

“As part of a broad coalition that pushed for legislative modifications to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), American Beverage Licensees (ABL) applauds the Senate’s passage of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, which will provide Main Street beverage alcohol businesses with greater flexibility and a more realistic time frame to use the program as intended.

“Beverage alcohol licensees, including bars, taverns and other on-premise establishments, are some of the nearly 4.5 million small businesses that have received PPP loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration. However, many of these businesses have endured state-enforced mandatory closures since March and are only now beginning to reopen their doors in still limited capacities to their employees and customers.  These circumstances, which have been beyond the control of local beverage businesses, have heightened their concerns about qualifying for PPP loan forgiveness, and driven them to strongly advocate for these important modifications to the PPP.

“With yesterday’s Senate passage of the PPP Flexibility Act following the House’s bipartisan approval of the bill on May 28, America’s beer, wine and spirits retailers are one step closer to getting back to the business of serving their communities.”

Link (pdf)


May Is National Tavern Month

Fighting to Keep Their Doors Open,

Local Bars & Taverns Need Support Now More Than Ever

APRIL 30, 2020 – BETHESDA, MD – Each year, American Beverage Licensees (ABL) reminds everyone that “May is Tavern Month” and encourages Americans to celebrate their local bars and taverns by stopping in and supporting these small businesses.

But this year is different.

With the COVID-19 crisis permeating every state, Main Street bars and taverns are in the fight of their lives as many have been forced to close their doors, lay off staff and severely alter or limit their operations.  What has always been an annual celebration is now a national emergency.

During most crises, corner bars and taverns are reliable refuges of normalcy, and some of the first to help their communities by supporting local economies, providing jobs and contributing to numerous nonprofits and charities.  But as the COVID-19 crisis continues, many of these family-owned small businesses are at risk of closing their doors permanently.

“What we stand to lose – economically, culturally, societally – with the widespread, permanent closure of bars and taverns is enormous,” said ABL Executive Director John Bodnovich.

“The job losses and financial impact continue to be tallied, but the mental and emotional costs of this crisis are incalculable.  Bar and tavern owners face gut-wrenching decisions over their businesses and with their staff members, many of whom are like family, and are often as well-known to customers as the establishments themselves.”

Until this spring, bars, taverns and other on-premise licensed establishments have been an important cog in the hospitality industry economic machine.  In the U.S., direct on-premise retail alcohol sales produce nearly $80.5 billion in direct economic impact; create more than 1.5 million jobs; generate $38.8 billion in direct wages and benefits; and provide over $31.5 billion in tax revenue annually.[1]

When including all sales by on-premise, full-service restaurants and drinking places, those numbers climb to 6.9 million jobs; $175.9 billion in direct wages and benefits; and over $363.3 billion in direct economic impact.

But with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, local bars and taverns are in a world of hurt.

Restrictions placed by states on on-premise sales of beverage alcohol products for the month of April alone will amount to losses of over $8.2 billion in sales, more than 148,000 total jobs, and $5.3 billion in total wages.  This does not even consider impacts from closures that begin in March or those that will extend into May or beyond.[2]

ABL and state bar and tavern associations are working with members to makes plans to reopen in a “new normal” where bars and taverns will be counted on to provide the economic growth required to help the country emerge from this crisis.

But for now, America’s bars and taverns are looking to national, state, local and industry leaders, as well as their loyal customers, for support and assistance to include:

  • White House – The White House Coronavirus Task Force must include in state reopening guidelines that bars and taverns have the opportunity to safely and responsibly reopen in the same phase and on a level playing field with restaurants and other similarly-situated businesses.  They are willing and ready to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the public and their guests and know what it means to be accountable businesspeople.
  • Congress – Bars and taverns appreciate Congress’ leadership in providing much needed relief in the CARES Act and supplemental legislation to bolster small business loan programs, but more relief is needed for hospitality businesses that account for 60% of jobs lost on account of COVID-19.
  • Governors – If bars and taverns are left behind in the reopening process now, many of them will never open their doors again. This means they will not be able to help rebuild their communities and get Americans back to work as the COVID-19 crisis subsides.  To overcome the long-term fiscal and employment impact of COVID-19, governors should consider directing aid toward these businesses and their employees and allow them to reopen as soon as it is safe and practicable.
  • Industry – The outpouring of support for bartenders, servers and back-of-house employees from the beverage alcohol industry has been generous and commendable. Bar and tavern businesses need the alcohol industry’s continued support to preserve the venues and destinations where beer, wine and spirits products can be discovered and enjoyed.
  • Customers – Once they can reopen, bars and taverns need the support of their loyal customers, many of whom have already shown their support during this crisis. From regular customers to happy hours to celebrations of all kinds, establishments count on their communities just as much as their communities count on them.


This May, join ABL and its state bar and tavern association affiliates nationwide in supporting some of the last truly Main Street businesses as they fight to keep serving their communities.  With the help of their customers, communities, industry and elected leaders, they will meet this challenge and continue the great American traditions of conviviality and hospitality in what, despite these challenging times, remains the Friendliest Place in Town.


[1] John Dunham & Associates. 2018 Economic Impact Study of America’s Beer, Wine and Spirits Retailers. New York, August 2018.

[2] John Dunham & Associates. American Beverage Licensees COVID-19 Impact Model. New York, April 2020.

ABL Statement Regarding Deregulation of the American Alcohol Industry in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

March 23, 2020

BETHESDA, MD American Beverage Licensees (ABL) Executive Director John Bodnovich issued the following statement regarding deregulation of the American alcohol industry in response to the COVID-19 crisis:

“American Beverage Licensees (ABL) and its state retail association affiliates have been hard at work for alcohol retailers during the COVID-19 crisis.  We’ve been working with governors’ offices and state regulators to allow hospitality businesses to continue to serve their communities; talking to federal and state legislators about providing relief for local small businesses and their employees; and coordinating with nearly all national alcohol industry trade associations in an effort to preserve the hundreds of thousands of businesses, over 2 million jobs, $122 billion in economic impact and $27 billion in taxes the alcohol industry generates.

“Now is the time for an orderly, state-regulated alcohol system where package liquor stores are treated as essential businesses, bars and taverns have the ability to serve their local communities in a modified way and, just as importantly, that we all do whatever we can for bar and tavern employees during this generation-defining crisis.

“Yet as stunned Americans try to adapt their lives and protect their families and businesses, and while people are literally dying during the COVID-19 crisis, today the National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR) issued a statement calling for blanket deregulation of interstate retail wine-shipping during this human tragedy, a crassly opportunistic attempt to advance its long-standing policy objectives during the fog of a health crisis.

“NAWR couches its statement as a righteous attack on wine and spirits wholesalers who had the audacity to call on governors to deem beer, wine and spirits retailers ‘essential businesses’ and urge states to take modest steps to allow limited and temporary pick-up and delivery options for bars, taverns and restaurants.  Apparently, respectfully suggesting a thoughtful and measured approach when it comes to retail alcohol regulations during this crisis is a grievous sin.

“Instead of putting aside ideological beliefs, NAWR instead chooses to put on display naked opportunism and disregard for public safety in the name of its free market prerogative.  If NAWR truly represented what most consumers recognize as wine shops, liquor stores, package stores and others who turn the key to open and close their Main Street business storefronts every day, perhaps they would better understand why it is wrong to take advantage of the chaos of a crisis to advance their political agenda.

“What we should all be doing right now is encouraging everyone to support their local bars, restaurants and taverns in a safe and responsible way.  These are our friends and neighbors and they need our support now more than ever.”