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Liquor Barn, Louisville, KY: challenge/focus: underage keg sales.

Kids have been rolling beer kegs into the woods since the dawn of time. If caught, they often cell cops that an innocent retailer--rather than an older friend--provided the contraband suds.

Tired of taking the heat, Liquor Barn has spent the past decade refining all aspects of its keg business. Today, it requires that keg consumers fill out registration forms at its six Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, stores. Its efforts have prompted local government to make keg registration--along with employee responsibility training--mandatory for all beer retailers in Fayette County, says Roger Leasor, general manager for LSGP-USA South, Liquor Barn's parent.

"I was at a public forum a number of years ago when an ABC [Alcohol Beverage Control] person told me that kids were saying they were getting kegs from Liquor Barn," says Leasor. "While the ABC person knew this wasn't true, the perception was as bad as the deed since we were the largest entity in the market and it was easy to point a finger. They wouldn't say they got the beer from family or friends. It was very troubling."

Liquor Barn's registration program involves photo copying keg buyers' I.D.s and filling out and filing triplicate forms. Mandatory registration was signed into law after Liquor Barn began sharing its ideas with local substance abuse groups. Today, red tags with recorded serial numbers are affixed to each keg. "If the police go into a field and find a keg and the kids run away, they can tell who bought it," says Leasor.

Keg registration has had other, unanticipated benefits. When consumers return a keg, all the paperwork is ready and their deposit is promptly refunded. "There's also no confusion over where they bought it," he adds. "We didn't plan it this way, but things got better because the customer was well served and we weren't making mistakes."

Following complaints about faulty equipment, the company also began purchasing and maintaining its own kegs and taps. In the past, equipment came from outside providers. This change led to a new measure of quality control. Every store, for example, must set aside time to clean pumps. "The customer knows the keg is going to work and that their party or wedding reception isn't going to be messed up," says Leasor. Within three years, his stores' keg sales have increased 10 to 15 percent.

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Liquor Barn also works with the University of Kentucky, high schools and local law enforcement to help prevent what it calls "social hosting" or the practice of older college students purchasing alcohol for underage ones. This work, which is done in conjunction with the Mayor's Alliance, entails public speaking and creation of educational materials.

And the company continues to utilize a "bounty" program developed two decades ago. When cashiers confiscate a fake I.D., they are rewarded $50. "If you impound the I.D., it won't be used again across the street," says Leasor. Over the years, Liquor Barn has paid out more than $40,000 in rewards.
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Publication:StateWays
Geographic Code:1U6KY
Date:Sep 1, 2010
Words:502
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