According to the Boston Globe the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (“ABCC”) has issued subpoenas to breweries, distributors, and retailers as part of an investigation into whether breweries or distributors have made payments to retailers for shelf and tap space, a practice known as pay-to-play. This practice is illegal under both state and federal law
Examples the Globe gives for what may constitute pay-to-play includes salesman offering a retailer a cut of the commission or marketing budget, a brewer offering to donate additional beer to a restaurant, a bar demanding a rebate for stocking company’s beer, or a distributor giving free equipment.
The Globe article mentions that the ABCC has not sanctioned a a business for pay-to-play in at least 18 years. This coupled with the fact that the number of investigators in the agency is in decline and the number of craft breweries in the state is growing creates an environment where there is more competition for shelf space and less of an opportunity for oversight.