Bill Introduced to Clean up Social Media Advertising Rules for Illinois Brewers and Distributors

In Beer Politics by Ryan

Distributors and brewers could use social media to promote tap takeovers and beer dinners under a bill introduced in the IL House. Right now that’s against the rules.

windycityshareBelieve it or not Windy City Distribution sharing this event photo on Facebook last summer broke an Illinois Liquor Control Commission policy. Hell, Metropolitan posting the event to begin with violated the policy too.

According to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission a social media post about an event amounts to providing something “of value” — free advertising — to the retailer. And a distributor or brewer providing something “of value” to a retailer is a no-no according to the ILCC.

To underscore that, the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois sent out a memo to its member distributors in December of 2012 warning them of the new policy.

The memo, in part, reads: “The Commission has ruled that distributors may not be retailer specific in its social media posts or tweets advertising its products unless all retailers are listed.  Such advertising would be considered giving the retailer something of value in violation of Section 6-5 of the Act.  Retailers would also be subject to disciplinary action for receiving something of value in violation of Section 6‑6 of the Act.”

The specific Trade Practice Policy is posted below, in all of its dry and vague glory.

State Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) is sponsoring a bill, HB 3237, to change that. It has the backing of the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. If it becomes law, the bill would allow a distributor or brewer to provide free social media advertising for a retail account so long as it doesn’t include a retail price for whatever is being advertised.

We sent the above link from Windy City’s Facebook page to ABDI President Bob Myers, who confirmed it is against the current ILCC rules. He also confirmed that the well-written and photo heavy blog over at Lakeshore Beverage is a violation of the same policy. In no way are we trying to call out Windy City or Lakeshore. Instead we think it shows how obscure and outdated the rule is as craft brewers, big and small, rely on social media for most — if not all — of their marketing.

Myers tells Guys Drinking Beer that, because of this, just about everyone in the beverage industry in the state is on board — save for one key player. “We haven’t heard from the LCC yet on their position,” said Myers.

The bill has been assigned to the House Executive Committee and could be heard as soon as this week.


As promised, here is the infamous TPP-2 and the section pertaining to “of value” advertising. We added some emphasis to hit one of the key areas of the policy.

12) The listing of retail liquor licensees carrying the products of a manufacturer or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer on the manufacturer’s or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer’s website

The Commission has received requests from certain manufacturers and distributor, importing distributor or foreign importers of alcoholic liquors if the listing of the names and addresses of retail liquor licensees carrying the products of a manufacturer or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer for sale on the manufacturer’s or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer’s website is a violation of the “of value” provisions of the Liquor Control Act of 1934.

Sections 5/6-4, 5/6-5 and 5/6-6 of the Liquor Control Act, the so-called “of value” or “tied house” provisions generally prohibit ownership/licensing relationships, the extension of credit and the providing of various types of advertising materials unless excepted in the said sections.

It is the Commission’s considered opinion that the listing of the names and addresses of all retail liquor licensees who carry the products for sale of a manufacturer or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer may be listed on the manufacturer’s and/or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer’s websites, subject to the following conditions:

1) The retailer contacts the manufacturer, distributor or importing distributor or foreign importer to have its business information included in the retailer listing.

2) The retailer listing shall include only the business name, business address and telephone number. The inclusion of E-mail or website addresses is prohibited.

3) The retailer listing does not provide specific product information, but rather is a general statement that the retailers listed carry the products of the manufacturer or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer.

4) The retailer listing shall include all retail licensees carrying the manufacturer’s or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer’s products, which listing may be on a city, town or village basis, or zip codes, or by any system which assures that all retailers are listed.

5) The listing shall include no retailer information other than referenced in these subsections, and “sales” or “product promotions” or the like are strictly prohibited.

6) The inclusion of any and all retailers on the manufacturer’s or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer’s website shall be at no direct or indirect cost to the retailer.

7) The manufacturer’s, non-resident dealer’s, distributor’s, importing distributor’s or foreign importer’s website shall not may provide a “link” to a website of any retail licensee, provided such linking is made available to all retailers requesting it. whether listed or not listed on the manufacturer’s or distributor, importing distributor or foreign importer’s website.

The Commission publishes this opinion with the express understanding that the purpose of such retailer listings is to provide truthful, accurate and up-to-date information to the ultimate consumer concerning the availability of alcoholic beverages.

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Ryan

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Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.