Things were much simpler in 2008 when Greg and Ross decided they wanted to find a way to engage with customers and support the community through an entertainment vehicle they dutifully named “Iron Horse Brewery Trivia Night”.
Back then, things like laws and rules didn’t exist. It was just man (all humans, not males) and beer. Simple. Easy. No bullshit, as they say. There wasn’t such a thing as the RCW or WAC when it came to beer regulations.
Oh wait. Nevermind. That’s completely not true.
Boy, it would be very convenient to blame the lack of rules as to how to legally engage with customers and fans at retail establishments. Fortunately, that’s not the case, because we like to take responsibility when the poutine hits the chesterfield.
3 days ago, we received a congenial phone call from our local Washington Liquor Control board agent, advising that it appears we are out of compliance with RCW (Revised Code of Washington) aka the law and the WAC (Washington Administrative Code) – rules to uphold the law. I asked our agent if he had some time to discuss this in person, as I wanted to gain better clarity as to the interpretation of the code.
So we sat down the next day and went through a few pieces. For the purposes of this post, let’s focus on the key piece that was the sticking point. (There were a couple of other issues that were cleared up after our conversation. )
Three-tier system—Money advances—Prohibition.
Except as provided in RCW 66.28.310, no industry member shall advance and no retailer shall receive moneys or moneys’ worth under an agreement written or unwritten or by means of any other business practice or arrangement.
The key phrase here is “moneys’ worth”. It appears that by paying an iron horse brewery employee to administer trivia night at our retail partner’s establishments, it is seen as “money’s worth”. It is considered a service that the retailer would otherwise have to pay for.
It kind of all comes down to that. It seems so obvious when I write it down.
There are some other things, like, we can’t call it iron horse brewery trivia night at retail account. It would have to be Retail Account’s Trivia Night, featuring Iron Horse Brewery, for example.
I suppose, if all of our trivia questions were brewery and iron horse beer related, I would bet we would be compliant with the law, however, that would make for kind of boring, weekly trivia night. So that is kind of a non-starter.
So, what’s your point? You might be asking.
As a rule, I try not to live by too many rules. However, when rules and well, the law, requires it, we must and should follow it. It is our corporate responsibility to adhere to them as cleanly as possible, not only to protect our own interests, but also to minimize risk to our partners.
Additionally, these laws exist to protect independent breweries everywhere. Without these laws, you can kind of guess or you can read one of Greg’s posts on how big beer could severely influence the market. In case you don’t have time or good intuition, suffice it to say, the big brewers can afford to do way more trivia nights with way better prizes in every market creating a strong financial tie and incentive to retailers to curry favor with those big brewers by most likely pouring more of their beer than anyone else’s. Not good for small brewers, hence, we like the law.
If for some reason, the brewery doesn’t agree with a rule, you will most likely hear about it in the proper channels, at the legislative level where it belongs.
In not-so-short form:
Iron Horse Brewery trivia nights hosted at Ellensburg retail establishments are no longer a thing. We’re pretty bummed, because community building outings like this are kind of what beer is all about, however, we agree with the law and now that we have greater clarity, it will be easier to work toward upholding it.
One cool metric though, since we have been tracking participation (about the last 5 years) we have held 186 trivia nights which brought out about 11,454 community members.
I’m not sure what that really means, but I like numbers and thought that probably 2 of you do too.
Trivia Nights at [ The Pub ] will continue, every Wednesday for as long as people keep coming