Friends, as you can imagine, when I write a blog on behalf of BDC, I obviously (have to) adopt our brand’s tone, language, etc., the whole package. While any regular, discerning reader can probably pick up on subtle editorial commentary if/when it gets sprinkled throughout the narrative, I still have to first and foremost honor BDC and its mission, and reflect that in my carefully chosen words.
Further, any published works, programs, or initiatives that we’ve launched have also usually had time to marinate or be vetted through trial and error. What you should see is the final draft, the polished package. When that vetting process isn’t afforded, which happens from time to time for whatever reason, things tend to be a little more raw and perhaps sometimes more authentic.
So, with that being said, I wanted to go back to our roots and get a little extra transparent (read: emotional) reflecting on a school of thought and behavior to which we (i.e., BDC) do our best to hold firm. This particular issue, well, among many, is one that I find myself banging my head against the wall over when I continue to see it ignored, abused, or ignorantly defended and laughed at. I experienced it again earlier this week, and it’s just not funny anymore. To be fair, it never should’ve been in the first place.
What I’ve come to realize is this: The alcohol industry—I’m talking the makers, the sellers, the marketers, and the consumers who become unsuspecting willing participants—is still avoiding a major conversation.
We have to stop glamorizing over-consumption and rewarding its negative consequences.
This is especially important at the ground level, within local bars and restaurants. And, before anyone gets triggered (don’t even get me started), I’m not talking about EVERYONE in the industry. The usual suspects know who they are.
Today is Friday, and what I’m referring to transpired on Monday, on Facebook. Go figure. I thought about it all week. I didn’t want to blog about it as soon as it happened because I wanted to give myself some time to sit with it. Then, last night, I tried to go back to capture screenshots of the thread (which I would’ve blurred as needed to respect everyone’s privacy), but found that it had been deleted.
I didn’t dive down any further to investigate, but only one of two things happened: 1) the original poster (OP) deleted it after I engaged him, or 2) the moderator, whom I know and respect, removed it. I hope it was the former as the latter would be disappointing because the conversation needs to be had.
I want people in the position of power and influence to get uncomfortable with it when I raise the point. If they roll their eyes at me, troll me, or try to double-down on the joke, then I know that they know better. And that’s as good as any place is to start. I can work with that, and we can learn from it.
Google any variation of “funny bar signs”, “funny alcohol signs”, “funny beer signs”, etc. You get the idea, and I know that you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, please Google it, and then come back.
As we were…
For context, I’m referring to a private, national Group exclusively for craft beer professionals, composed of everyone from every facet of the industry. Most of the dialogue is exactly what it should be—brewers asking for advice or troubleshooting support, owners sharing testimonials, employees voicing concerns, etc. Good people communicating about legitimate issues with sincere care and conviction for protecting and improving our industry.
But, every so often, you get one good ‘ole boy laced with archaic thought who just wants to have a little fun, no harm intended. The community response is what we’ve come to expect: The majority endorse it with thumbs up, faces smiling, and more people piling on in the comments.
This particular post was nothing terribly out of the ordinary, offensive, or malicious. Without those screenshots, I’ll summarize. The OP posted a photo of a sandwich board-type sign at some dive bar in Podunk, USA that read something very close to:
“Bar stools are reserved for customers with a 3-drink minimum. If you can’t drink 3, please get out of the way so a professional can have your seat.”
See? Harmless. Insert sarcasm. Read between the lines. Harmful.
His post had been up long enough to garner more than a handful of emoji endorsements. But, I was the first one to comment, and wrote something very close to:
“As trusted professionals, we owe it to our industry and the next generation of enthusiasts to hold ourselves to a higher standard and stop glorifying and endorsing over-consumption.”
That’s it. No aggression, no name-calling, no swear words. Trust me, I know from personal experience that 2020 has kicked the crap out of enough of us to the point where I can at least understand justified human reactions from fuses clipped way too short courtesy of the pandemic. All that aside, my intention aims to work toward holding ourselves accountable to a higher standard of responsibility to ourselves and stakeholders of alcohol—from those who make it to those who drink it. Just as I stated in my comment.
The OP replied, and I’m quoting verbatim his first sentence: “I agree with you, but…” Okay, let’s pause. This is what gives me the hope that he, and not the admin, deleted it after he sat on my comment for a bit. When he could’ve (i.e., should’ve) stopped there, he continued his sentence by poking a hole in his own defense, while reinforcing my point beautifully, with something very elementary and close to: “... it was just something I saw that made me laugh, so I wanted to share it.”
Aaannd THAT’S the moment my palm met my forehead while simultaneously shaking my head.
I didn’t reply to his comment nor the other couple of ding-dongs who chimed in telling me to relax because it was just a joke and that we, “as professionals, should be able to understand that.” You know what? I’ll give him both. Yeah, duh—I know it was meant to be ha-ha funny. And, trust me, dude—they don’t come with a skin much thicker than mine. However…
This subtle “joke” shared within a private group of industry professionals is, to be honest, a pretty mundane, yet widely accurate representation of what we’ve come to. As an industry that prides itself on camaraderie, community, and support for one another—one in which I’m proud to see start talking about mental health—it still can’t seem to shake the comfort it finds in perpetuating a norm that validates you by how much you can consume. And making fun of those of us who dare challenge it with the goal of simply protecting its success and longevity (by doing the right things).
Regardless, I will continue to speak up as an advocate for all of us who desire a healthier relationship with alcohol and reject the current cultural norms. I know what I’m signing up for. I’d rather the target be on my chest. I know when I’m ruffling all of the stained, crustry, old feathers out there. And, if that means even just one person will think twice about posting a seriously unfunny joke about drinking too much, I’m cool with it.
- J Ley, CEO, BDC
P.S. If you’re reading this and you own a bar and the sign out front says, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning,” please, do yourself a favor—just stop. I already know how bad it smells inside, how sticky your floors are, that you still serve beer in frozen pint glasses, and that you’re lying when you sign off on your bathroom cleaning checklist. Your customers deserve better than what you’re selling them.