Craft Beer Distributor Fined $2.6 Million for Bar Scheme to Exclude Competitor Brands

The craft beer distributor regularly paid restaurants and bars to stock its brands in place of competitors

Photo Modified: Flickr/Nan Palmero/CC 2.0

Craft Beer Guild LLC, the largest distributor of craft beers in Massachusetts, has been fined $2.6 million to avoid a three-month suspension of its liquor license after it was found guilty of paying a number of restaurants and bars in Boston to stock its beers in place of competitor brands.

At least a dozen restaurant owners were found to have accepted money — between $1,000 and $2,000 for each dedicated beer tap — from Craft Beer Guild in a “pay to play” deal that excluded brands from other beer wholesalers. Up to a dozen retailers were also paid kickbacks for the preferential placement of several of Craft Beer Guild’s brands on tap.

The businesses involved may face a separate set of repercussions, including license suspensions, from the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, or ABCC.

“This conduct is not something… that we’re proud of,” J. Mark Dickinson, an attorney for Craft Beer Guild, told The Boston Globe last year.

In February, the ABCC gave the guild the option of a record 90-day liquor license suspension, or the nearly-$3 million fine. Citing a desire to protect its employees and retail customers, the company chose to pay the fine, believed to be the largest ever collected by the commission.


“This is an unfortunate circumstance we’re in, but this was the way to move forward,” Tom Schreibel, a vice president for the company, told the Boston Globe.