Small Business Battles Bud Light After Local Brewery Bill Fails

Small businesses like Ziggy's Bar & Grill and Kata Robata have scratched Bud Light from their menus and have spread the word through social media, as response to HB 602's recent death at the hands of Anheuser-Busch.

"We have '86 Bud Light' written on the door and people who got that, got it and it was hilarious," Ziggy's General Manager Taushah Crawford said.

The restaurants began the boycott when HB 602 died in the legislature. HB 602 would have allowed breweries to charge an admission fee to any visitor wishing to take a tour. The bill would have also allowed breweries to either gift or sell their craft beer to visitors. The provisions of the bill would have allowed Texas breweries to operate like wineries.

Anheuser-Busch intervened to stop the passage of the bill in the eleventh hour.

"[HB 602] has tried to go through a few times under different names and it probably would have gone through this time," Kata Robata owner general manager Josh Martinez said. "[Anheuser-Busch] has nothing to lose or to gain from it."

While the restaurants' actions resemble a boycott, Ziggy's owner Kevin Strickland shies away from that label. Strickland instead stands by the mantra of small business solidarity.

Ziggy's and Kata Robata have also spread awareness through Twitter, which has been instrumental to small business in Houston. Instead of actively enlisting participants, they hope other restaurants and small businesses will choose to stand beside them.

"What's really nice about social media, particularly something like Twitter, is it gives a small business owner the ability to have a voice and maybe level the playing field a little bit," Strickland said.

Strickland also credits social media for strengthening the ties in Houston's local business community.

Texas House Representative Jessica Farrar authored HB 602. Local Breweries like Southern Star, Real Ale and Saint Arnold would have been able to reap those benefits.

Strickland held a rally to support HB 602 and craft beer in March 2011. A hundred people attended, including Farrar.

Strickland said Anheuser-Busch will eventually alienate small business through their actions and accelerate the removal of Anheuser-Busch products from other menus.

"Anheuser-Busch may have won this battle, but they're probably losing the war," Strickland said.

Refusing to sell Bud Light has not hurt sales for either restaurant. Craft beer accounts for a third of alcohol sales and 5 percent of total sales at Ziggy's. Bud Light usually ranks near the bottom of Ziggy's beer sales. Strickland credits the greater interest in craft beer to the decline in Anheuser-Busch products. Solidarity will help itself in the end.

"No one cares about Bud Light," Strickland said.

While Martinez has not named a replacement beer, Strickland will replace Bud Light with another craft beer, Silver Light.

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Jake Hong