Thursday, March 5, 2009
You, me and the OLCC
It all started with my audacity. Well, my audacity and a certain beer representative that promised me there wouldn't be any problem getting me the keg I wanted, when I wanted it. Back in January I sent out an email to the folks on the Kebaba list that stated, among other things, that the wonderfully delicious Belgium Farmhouse Ale, Saison Dupont, would be available on tap sometime during February. Then I sent a couple more emails in February, all making the same claim. And oh, weren't people excited. Several customers and friends commented that they would be in as soon as it was here.
So the stage had been set, the timing was right, I asked to have the keg brought down from Portland so it would be around when we needed it. That was somewhere around mid-February, which is plenty of time to start pouring by the last week. Allowing me to keep my promise and us beer lovers to get our fix, before March 1. But the keg didn't show up. So phone calls were made, but no answers were given as to where this keg was. More phone calls, no replies, more calls, no replies. During this time, the keg I did have was running low, the weekend was approaching and I needed something fast.
In walks Patty O, resident good guy, with his mason jar of goodness. Carrying a sample of one of the finest American Tripel ales I've ever sampled. Brewed in Portland, by a brewery I had never heard of, which makes it even more desirable to me. Patty O saves the day by bringing in a keg of this Tripel Tempter just in the nick of time. No down time on the tap handle and with a Belgium style beer too. Thanks Pat.
Here's where this story get's tricky. Since I had been announcing the arrival of a beer that now wasn't going to come, and I still didn't have a reason as to why, so I began feeling really dumb. I decided to save face with my email listers by offering them something special. So was born the "call me a liar" campaign. Where if you came into the restaurant and called us a liar, you'd receive a $1 discount on the Tripel Tempter that was now pouring in replacement of the Saison I had promised. I felt it was a rather witty email and so did so many others. Even non beer drinkers were mentioning the email to their servers, mainly because they wanted to call someone a liar to their face and not get hit. One more problem, the attachment that was meant to go out with the original email, including artwork and a beer profile from the brewery, did not make it. So the email was re-sent, this time with the descriptions in tact.
The evening of the second email is when the OLCC gave me a call at Kebaba. Just a few days earlier I had ordered some new "If you were born before this date..." signs and I answered the call expecting them to ask if they had arrived, thanking me for keeping current on those things. But that is NOT what happened. On the other end of the phone was a man, who quickly and concisely explained to me that what I had done was outside of the regulations set by the OLCC regarding alcohol advertising. It seems that you cannot advertise discounted alcohol outside of your establishment, for any reason, at any time. Not to sound completely ignorant, this regulation I was aware of. But, I, my partners and every customer up to and after the time of the phone call, was shocked to know that sending discounts to a private email list was also unlawful. As it turns out, the guy at the OLCC was very cool about it, just doing his job after another business owner had complained. I assured him I was clear on the rule now and that I would never do it again. He thanked me, I said I was sorry and the conversation was ended.
Now that it's all over, I guess I feel lucky for several reasons. My ignorance combined with audacity allowed me to be have one of my more talked about and successful guerilla advertising campaigns to date. But I also feel lucky that my ignorance and audacity did not get me a substantial fine, we cannot afford right now. No harm done, but I guess I'll just never stop doing what I feel is right, living and learning.