Californian alcohol retailers can now use photos to promote events on social media

New laws in the state of California mean that alcohol suppliers can now legally post photos advertising events such as winemaker dinners on social media, though video content is still prohibited.

The laws, which fall under Assembly Bill 2452, came into effect this year and state that alcohol suppliers in the state may now legally post photos of retail premises on social media in connection to a number of different types of event.

These include winemaker dinners, tastings on off-sale retail premises (with a type 86 licence) and tastings at on-sale premises.

Before this law was passed, alcohol suppliers were permitted to mention details such as the location of the event and other basic details, but pictures of retail premises were forbidden. Photo-based alcohol event advertising, according to the guidelines above, has now been approved.

These options are also available to craft distillers under Assembly Bill 1819, who are similarly not allowed to upload video content.

Under AB 1819, suppliers are allowed to mention the name, address, phone number, email address, web site and any other details mentioned on their on-sale retail licence. Also permitted to be included in the post are the names of the wines, beers and spirits being featured and the time, date and location of the event. This can be accompanied by pictures, illustrations and depictions of the premises, staff and customers.

However, posts can still not contain retail prices of the alcohol and outwardly promote the retailer’s information – it must be “relatively inconspicuous in relation to the advertisement as a whole. Laudatory references to the license-holder in these advertisements are not authorized.”

Analyzing the new laws in a recent blog post, Rebecca Stamey-White, lawyer and strategic adviser at San Francisco-based specialists in alcohol law Hinman & Carmichael, said that the so-called ‘tied house laws’ had historically stopped suppliers from advertising their retailers as it was thought it would “compromise a retailer’s independence and allow suppliers to unduly influence retailers to carry their products.”

She added: “This new California exception is in many ways unnecessary absent an intent to enforce, but it provides suppliers the certainty of knowing they can use the exception, in this modern era of Facebook and Instagram posts that heavily rely on photos, to promote the many tasting events they are participating in at retail premises across the state.”

Talking about the state of play in other US states, Stamey-White said it had not been a priority for any other state apart from Colorado, which specifically excludes social media from its tied house restrictions.

A study released in November last year revealed the power of social media advertising in the alcohol industry and particularly the sway that positive, or negative, enforcement by peers can have.

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