So many new beers have entered the market over the past couple decades that when you walk into a bar, you never know what you’re going to find. Maybe you’ll see the old standbys: Bud, Miller, Coors. Maybe you’ll see unique craft beers you’ve never heard of. So how do bars choose what they’re going to stock? We’d like to believe beer buyers choose brews they think their clients will like, or that they personally like, but the truth may be a bit more underhanded. By all accounts, “pay-to-play” is alive and well in the beer distribution world.
“Pay-to-play,” for those unfamiliar with the concept, is when distributors offer incentives to encourage (aka, bribe) bars to stock their products. Despite the name, those incentives usually aren’t cash, but something else of value: from free beer to new draft equipment to draft line maintenance. Regardless of the gift, however, unlike in other industries, these deals are illegal thanks to post-Prohibition rules.
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