Date(s) - 04/08/2014 - 04/09/2014

Omni Austin Hotel Downtown (Austin, TX)


2014 RR Forum
April 8-9, 2014. the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown

12th Responsible Retailing Forum examines innovations in Responsible Retailing

The 2014 Responsible Retailing Forum (RRForum) national conference ─  hosted by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, April 8th and 9th in Austin, Texas ─ brought together 96 regulators, law enforcers, retailers, producers, distributors, researchers and public health / prevention stakeholders to examine Responsible Retailing (RR) at the level of licensee, community and public policy. TABC Administer Sherry Cook opened the meeting with an overview of an agency overseeing over 47,500 licensees.

Licensees. Retailers and their associations addressed “The Case for Responsible Retailing”:  why they have come to see RR as an effective business model ─ and not simply a risk reduction strategy. Chad Brown of WalMart noted the difference between a culture of compliance and a culture of commitment, noting that effective policies and procedures can produce compliance rates in the low 90’s but that a corporate culture of commitment is needed to bridge that final gap to achieve rates in the high 90’s. Eric Cartier of CVS Caremark discussed that chain’s decision to eliminate tobacco. Scott Wexler of the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association described a program that will include “pseudo-intoxicated” mystery shops − to guard against over-service − as well as ID checks to prevent underage sales. Ryan Basset of Whole Foods and Matthew Reilly of Ignite Restaurant Group (both officers of the National Association of Licensing and Compliance Professionals, and Gene McMenamin of the host Omni Hotel, participated in a discussion of the challenges faced by licensees.

Community Responsible Retailing focused upon different community applications of an underage sales prevention model, developed by RRForum under a Small Business Innovation Research award from NIH, that employs Mystery Shops to achieve consistent staff ID-checking:

Steve Waldo of the VT Dept of Liquor Control described the Brattleboro Responsible Retailing Forum, in which DLC engaged local public health and prevention stakeholders to work with retailers and their industry partners. Although few licensees responded initially to DLC’s outreach, licensee participation grew to 100% when DLC was joined by a local beer distributor in visiting licensees. (Steve relayed that one licensee exclaimed: “I know you [looking first at Steve] and I know you [looking at the distributor], but what are you two doing together?)

Shannon Adams of RRForum and Rodney McDowell of Capitol Beverage described the Respect 21 RR program at the University of Texas, Austin, and the commitment of the distributor to expand and sustain the RR program in Austin as a pro-active way for industry to address underage alcohol access and use in college environments. The UT-Austin program is one of 26 that MillerCoors distributors are conducting in colleges and universities in 2014-15. Mindy Carroll described the educational outreach of TABC, including training as a follow-up to TABC enforcement; and Major Randy Field  of TABC described a broad-based coalition of alcohol stakeholders in Bryant, TX and the commitment of TABC to participate in such community coalitions.

Capt Bill Bongle of the Green Bay PD discussed the trial use of Red and Green cards for licensees in lieu of citations for licensees that failed underage decoy inspections and how appreciatively the licensees responded. Thereafter, Green Bay implemented a Respect 21 program which used Mystery Shoppers to provide licensees with feedback on actual staff ID-checking performance.  Wisconsin has since rolled out the WI Respect 21 RR Program, administered by RRForum and sponsored by MillerCoors, which will initially be offered in the communities that had participated in the Respect 21 program or in the RRForum community trial. Individual communities establish their own policies regarding participation in the program: in Green Bay, for instance, participation in the WI Respect 21 RR Program will be treated as a mitigating factor if a licensee were cited for an underage sale in the future. Capt Bongle also described a new law in Wisconsin, modeled upon the Alaska “Brown Jug” statute, that provides licensees with a cause of action against anyone using a false ID.

Kathie Durbin of the Montgomery County Dept of Liquor Control described a pilot project with RRForum that addressed the reductions in compliance rates that followed reductions in the number of compliance inspections due to budgetary reductions: Spot the Mystery Shopper. Whereas the community RR model may create incentives for licensees to participate in the program, such as mitigation, the STMS program provides incentives for clerks and servers to conscientiously check IDs. Licensees in Bethesda, MD were informed that they could be Mystery Shopped by young, legal-age customers; and RRForum identified these shoppers by name (e.g. “James, K, age 22”). Any clerk or server who identified the customer as an RRForum Mystery Shopper received a cash bonus. Bethesda achieved  ID-checking rates of 89% and 98% in the two rounds of inspections, compared to DLC’s own compliance rates of 69% in the prior year. And almost a quarter of the staff spotted the MS and received a $100 gift.

Public Policy was examined in three plenary sessions:

(1) Alcohol regulators presented public policies in their states to encourage the adoption of RR practices. Kim Sauer of the Washington State Liquor Control Board and Steve Sander of Oregon Liquor Control Commission presented their respective state responsible vendor programs, both of which provide licensees who complete training and adopt RR practices with mitigation for future citations.  Despite significant reductions in fines for citations for participating in the Oregon program, only a small percentage of licensees are enrolled ─ probably because enrollment is offered at the time of applying for a licensee, when the applicant is overwhelmed with other necessary actions. The Washington program, however, has high participation ─ two-thirds of all licensees are enrolled ─ because, Kim believes, any licensee that wishes to offer tasting to their customers must be enrolled in the program.

Ed Swedberg of TABC and Chris Albrecht of the California Dept of Alcoholic Beverage Control examined explained how incentives to licensees are tools in a comprehensive enforcement strategy. In California, licensees may enroll their staff in a free 3.5 hour RBS training offered by CABC that imparts partial mitigation for an alcohol sales violation. But only a small number of staff in California’s > 75,000 licensees are able to avail themselves of the program. In Texas, TABC employs an approach that allocates almost half of all enforcement resources to a small number of problematic licensees cited for prior violations, reasoning that “presence = compliance.” The 42,000 licensees not on the list of prior violators are inspected infrequently: these licensees have an 80% chance of being inspected one time in the current year. Texas employs a Safe Harbor concept for licensees whose staff  have completed RBS training: actions in violation of the alcohol sales laws are taken against the individuals who commit those actions rather than against the licensee. In both California and Texas,  incentives and enforcement are the carrots and sticks that work interdependently to achieve compliance.

(2) Four senior research scientists and current and former SAMHSA officers examined the  relationship between “evidenced-based” programs and innovation. Moderator William DeJong, Ph.D of Boston Univ. laid out the structural tension between a commitment to evidenced-based programs and the need for innovation. Richard Lucey of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention explained that in a time of diminishing resources for public health and prevention, there is increased emphasis upon the evidence of effectiveness for publicly-supported programs. Robert Saltz, Ph.D, of the Prevention Research Center/PIRE described how the effectiveness of such programs is tied explicitly to a specific implementation and that practitioners should not assume that a program successful in one location will necessary be successful everywhere; and he noted that the prevention field has not always distinguished the underlying principals that makes the model effective.  Joel Grube, Ph.D, also of the Prevention Research Center/PIRE, explained that despite efforts to stress innovative research, the peer review process employed by NIH continues to reflect the dominance of research design as a criterion for fundable research.  Gill Woodall, Ph.D, of the Univ. of NM discussed the translation of successful research findings into actual process, the adoption and diffusion of technology articulated by his mentor, Everett Rogers, noting that evidence of effectiveness is no assurance that a program will be employed.   Former SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie discussed the similar efforts of FAAR (formerly the Century Council) to examine the nature and importance of evidence-based programs and likened a comprehensive prevention program to a diversified investment portfolio which has a strong position in blue chip stocks (proven effectiveness) but which includes some less predictable but potentially high-yield investments (the role of innovation).

(3) Brett Bivans of the International Center for Alcohol Policy introduced the Beer, Wine & Spirits Producers’ Commitments (2012), a response of major producers to the challenges set forth by the World Health Organization, and expanded upon an effort to identify guiding principles in responsible beverage alcohol retailing. Brandy Nannini of the Foundation for the Advancement of Alcohol Responsibility, Diane Wagner of MillerCoors and Jim Peters of the Responsible Hospitality Institute described the efforts of their organizations in RR.  The panelists concurred that many of their approaches to RR would be equally valid if applied in other, less-developed markets. This was reaffirmed by Boston Univ. Ph.D candidate Gampo Dorji, MD, MPH, who presented an RRForum-sponsored Responsible Retailing project in Bhutan that employed similar approaches and protocols as US-based projects.


A presentation by Washington State LCB Director Rick Garza on changes following Initiative 1183 (that privatized alcohol sales in Washington State) and Initiative 502 (leading to the development of regulations for the sale of recreational marijuana) generated the greatest discussion among participants.