Last Call: Founders Sued for Racial Discrimination; New Jersey ABC Suspends Taproom Ruling

Lawsuit Accuses Founders Brewing of Racial Discrimination

A former Founders Brewing employee has filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the Michigan craft beer maker of racial discrimination, according to the Metro Times.

Tracy Evans, an African-American, claims he experienced “blatant” racism from some of his white co-workers as well as “a racist internal corporate culture” during his four-year tenure as a manager at Founders’ Detroit and Grand Rapids locations. In the lawsuit, Evans claims he was fired prior to making another formal complaint with Founders’ human resources department.

“They wanted to keep the management white, they wanted their clientele to be white, and he was treated differently in the time when mattered the most — when it affected his job,” Evans’ attorney, Jack Schulz, told the outlet. “When he spoke up about his treatment, it only got worse.”

Founders has denied the allegations.

Among the allegations included in Evans’ lawsuit are claims that management tolerated white employees who used the “N-word” when speaking to Evans, passed him up for promotions in favor of junior employees, including one who allegedly exposed himself to partygoers, and kept separate “white guy” and “black guy” printers.

Read more details about the lawsuit here.

New Jersey Delays Taproom Regulations

Amid pressure from state lawmakers and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has suspended a “special ruling” that was issued last week and was aimed at limiting the number of events breweries could hold in their taprooms, according to NJ.com.

ABC director David Rible issued a statement saying, “We want to make sure that we get this right.”

The ABC’s special ruling issued late last month would have limited breweries to hosting just 25 “special events,” including showing sporting events on TV and hosting trivia nights or live music, as well as 52 private parties.

Now, the ABC will consult with lawmakers, brewery owners, and bar and restaurant owners, among others, on the ruling. Additionally, the state lawmakers are considering drafting legislation on the matter.

Beer Institute ‘Disappointed’ in Continued Aluminum Tariffs

Despite the United States striking a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, the aluminum tariffs remain in effect. Those tariffs are estimated to cost the U.S. beer industry $347 million, according to the Beer Institute (BI), which expressed disappointment that the U.S. failed to exempt aluminum from the levies.

“It is disappointing that President Trump did not lift tariffs on aluminum as the United States, Canada, and Mexico announced a new trade agreement,” BI president and CEO Jim McGreevy said, via a press release. “Aluminum used to make beer cans has nothing to do with our nation’s national security, and continuing to impose these tariffs on some of the United States’ closest allies unnecessarily increases costs on our nation’s vibrant beer industry — which is a crown jewel for American manufacturing.”

McGreevy also called on President Donald Trump to end the tariffs on aluminum.

Meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Ken Buck (R-CO) and Jim Costa (D-CA) introduced legislation to provide more oversight of aluminum markets after the beer industry called upon lawmakers to investigate irregularities in the aluminum market, which stakeholders claim are causing the price of the metal used in beverage cans to surge.

H.R. 6927, the Aluminum Pricing Examination (APEX) Act, would give the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) the authority to oversee and investigate price reporting and setting in the aluminum markets.

The bill would also enable the CFTC to work with the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate anti-competitive behavior in aluminum price reporting.

“Our beverage and beer industry, along with so many other job-creating industries, rely on a fair and free market for aluminum purchases,” Buck said in a press release. “To avoid perversions of the free market, like monopoly pricing, we need to fully equip the CFTC, alongside the Justice Department, to investigate pricing irregularities that have been plaguing the aluminum market for months now.”

Utah Regulations Grocery, Convenience Store Beer Sales

Hidden in a bill that lifted the Zion Curtain in Utah’s restaurants was language that limited the number of beer displays in grocery and convenience stores as well as required those retailers to post warning signs noting that “These beverages contain alcohol,” the Salt Lake City Tribune reported.

Additionally, the new law now requires stores to obtain an off-premise state license from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC), with the proceeds going to hire five new compliance officers, the outlet reported.

“We’re not here to shut people down,” DABC off-premise beer manager Stephne Hanson told the outlet. “But we need everyone to get licensed, or beer comes off the shelves.”

Read more about the new regulations here.

CH Distillery Acquires Malort

CH Distillery, a Chicago-based craft spirits producer, has acquired the Jeppson’s Malort brand, according to the Chicago Tribune. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Malort, an herbal liqueur with a bitter aftertaste, has gained a cult-like following in Chicago in recent years because of its acquired taste and an off-putting flavor profile that leaves many first-time drinkers asking why anyone would subject themselves to such a beverage.

Since 2011, sales of the brand have increased from about 2,000 cases annually to more than 10,000 cases last year, the Tribune reported.

“I don’t take any credit. It was the hipsters. The Chicago hipsters adopted Malort,” outgoing president Pat Gabelick told the outlet.

Though the brand is primarily sold in Chicago, Malort has been produced in Florida since the 1970s.

CH Distillery founder Tremaine Atkinson said he was interested in acquiring Malort because of his own love-hate relationship with the brand.

“It’s such a great iconic Chicago thing,” he told the Tribune.

Chris Furnari contributed to this report.

Brewbound Job Board

The leading job board for the beer industry. Featuring hundreds of jobs from leading breweries and associated companies.

Brewbound Podcast

The Brewbound Podcast features interviews with beer industry executives and entrepreneurs, along with highlights and commentary from the weekly news. New episodes every Thursday.