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State Laws and Line Cleaning

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  • State Laws and Line Cleaning

    Does anyone live in a state where 1. it is not required by law that businesses clean their draft systems and 2. The distributors are legally allowed "to service and repair, at no cost, the draft beer equipment of on-premises licensees."?

    My state is considering a bill that would allow number 2. What would that do for the business climate from a line cleaners perspective? I would guess that the distributors would potentially sub contract the work out to existing cleaners but on the other hand they may find it cheaper to hire a full time guy themselves and do it that way.

    Any input you guys have would be appreciated. I figure with all the variations in liquor laws there has to be at least a state or two that have a law similiar to this. I would love to hear some advice and/or experiences that others may have so I can deal proactively with this. Thanks again for your help.

    Last edited by edramshaw; 03-11-2007, 03:26 PM.
    Blue Line Draft Systems

  • #2
    Hi Ed,
    Here in Ontario we do not have regulated line cleaning (yet). Our distribution system is different than yours; we only have a two tier. The three largest brewers own the distribution channel called “The Beer Store” (TBS). All breweries pay a fee to TBS to have their brands sold. TBS sells through retail outlets and direct to licensees. They are the only places allowed by law to sell beer in Ontario, with the exception of a few brewpubs and on site stores at the breweries.

    That said, the micros provide a coupler, faucet, and handle once their brand gets listed at an account. They also (most anyhow) clean their own lines. The Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) have deemed that equipment & line cleaning is inducement and is illegal for brewers to provide the service to accounts. Despite this, the micros do it anyhow. I think the AGCO has other larger issues to deal with so they turn a blind eye.

    I have yet to speak to a brewer who doesn’t think that line cleaning should be mandated.

    The problem that everyone has is that if it does become mandated and breweries are allowed to pay for it the cost has to be absorbed somewhere. So either the price of the beer goes up (which nobody wants) or they do not provide the service. Either way, the brewer looses. So as much as they want it for quality, they don’t for fiscal reasons.

    I don’t think that it would be a bad thing if the law went through in your state because breweries do not want the hassle of line cleaning. I’m seeing that here now. Breweries are backing away form it and either not providing it anymore or are sub-contracting it out. Most micros that clean their lines have the delivery guy cleaning the lines as well. If it comes down to delivering beer or cleaning lines, it doesn’t take an MBA to figure out which one will win.

    As you know there is a high cost to cleaning lines. You have transportation, chemical, insurance, wages, gas (!!!), and all the other crap to cover. The breweries are figuring this out and there is a magic number where it becomes beneficial for you to do the service for them.

    The trick is to figure out that magic number. Is it $20 a line, 30, 40??? Perhaps you could take on the lines for several breweries to save you some time and bring the cost down.

    Great topic. I’m interested to see other replies.

    Draught Prophets


    • #3
      In New York State the distributors are not allowed to clean lines. I am told there is a law that lines must be cleaned every two weeks but no one can produce that law and if it does exist it is not enforced. At a recent meeting with draft beer cleaners hosted by Anheuser Bush they told us they were trying to get the law changed so that distributors could clean lines. They are not having luck so far. There is so much bad beer being served they want something done.

      I agree something should be done --- I owned a busy sports bar for 20 years before I started cleaning lines. I learned the hard way that a lot of line cleaners don’t really do the job they are charging for. I caught people using plain water with no chemicals and not taking faucets apart if they weren’t being watched.

      Most people think that if a tavern cleans their lines every two weeks and the competition down the street never cleans their lines that they would have an advantage, but the truth is that both places will see a decrease in draft beer business and an increase in bottle beer business. Patrons will visit several taverns in an evening and would rather drink a consistent bottle beer than get a great draft in one place and a terrible one in another place.

      I think the secret is to give the bars and restaurants an incentive to clean their lines such as a two or three dollar discount on each barrel if they prove that they are cleaning their lines every two weeks.

      I agree - great topic


      • #4
        Each market is unique as to laws governing the maintenance and service of systems. Some allow distributors to clean where others state that the retailers are responsible. Each situation utilizes contract independent cleaners on some level.

        Normally the areas that mandate cleaning by retailers is where draft suffers. Not only are they reluctant to pay for the service, if they do it themselves, it is infrequent and incorrect. Sometimes systems are not maintained at all as the retailers simply do not understand why. Do these retailers clean their kitchen at the end of each business day? Additionally, even with laws on the books, who is available to enforce them.

        Where distributors can legally offer the service free, they either employ personnel or contract to independents. Contract has seen ups and downs. Where they have fallen short, distributors have dismissed them and began cleaning themselves again. Usually the only impact retailers have is when they voice their displeasure about the loss of beer during the cleaning cycle. One reason we are adamant about designing systems using 5/16" versus 3/8" barrier tubing for remote systems, where possible. You would think that these markets are cleaner since the distributor who represents a portfolio of products from multiple suppliers care about how these systems are performing. Sometimes yes. Most of the time, no.

        It all boils done to who is the smarter business person. Those who choose to invest in the draft product will win and know that quality impacts resales for retailers and supports the brands from the distributor. Unfortunately, management at quite a few breweries simply have a weak knowledge base on draft. Therefore they tend to avoid it and not invest in it. This lack of knowledge trickles down to the distributor and thus the retailer.

        There are individuals who see this lack of knowledge as an opportunity! You know who you are and you're growing. Good luck and let us know where to drink great draft beer at retail in your local market area . Be careful partaking. You will have a tendency to redefine the phrase "one more"!
        Last edited by Scott Zuhse; 03-12-2007, 04:24 PM.
        Scott Zuhse, Instructor Micro Matic Dispense Institute


        • #5
          I'm Have worked a 60 mile radius of my area in minnesota for over 28 years. Here beer distributors can clean line if the going cost does not excide $100.00 per year per brand at an account. The problem is that they do not want to do it, and the accounts do not want their dispensing system down 2-3 times in the cleaning cycle.I have try to have the beer distributor pay $3.85 every 2 weeks for each brand they have on tap at accounts, And they said they would not make any money then, but they give it to special accounts. If they would do this then it would only cost then account about $30.00 per year per line. The beer com.would oonly pay if the lines were taken care of right.
          L. Tapper


          • #6
            I am a line cleaner in pa. Its a shame to say some of the accounts I pick up are just plain nasty.I started taking before & after pictures to show owners how their faucets & taps looked & should look. I will not drink draft beer ,unless we clean the lines.Again the BEST way is a re-circulating pump,an aggressive chemical ( caustic ) & take the faucets apart & clean with a soft brush & a hard stainless steel brush.sticking a brush up the faucet is useless ( blm method ) The faucets need to be taken apart more than once every 8 to 12 weeks


            • #7
              Thanks for all the replies. It certainly seems that each state is unique. I am going to a legislative hearing today to find out more of what is going on behind this bill. I will post more info when I get it.

              I would love to cleaning mandated, both for business sake and for the poop beer that suffers out there. I too am in a position now where I won't drink draft beer unless I we clean the lines. I have seen some nasty lines/faucets out there.

              My main concern is that this bill would destroy a business that I have put a lot of time and money into but it seems that it is not detrimental to the independants. I makes sense that the big guys, even if allowed, would not want to pick up the espense of such a service. We will see what is really going on today.

              Thanks again.
              Blue Line Draft Systems


              • #8
                Beer Line Laws

                On the eastern side of North Dakota we are subed by the wholesalers.
                They pay me $3 per Line then I charge the bars $2 - $3 per line depending on the length. Wholesalers come around and check up to make sure their lines get cleaned when we say were doing them. As far as the bars are concerned it's alot easier to get in with them when the wholesaler salesmen push the concern for line cleaning. With tapcleaners and wholesalers pushing this, it's become easier to get in but until there's a health code it's hard to make any kind of decent income, besides finding good help at a good wage.
                Keep pushing guys, it's lookin better every year.


                • #9
                  state laws and line cleaning

                  greetings to all... illinois liquor commision requires line cleaning every two weeks. the retailer is responsible for faucet maint.(swabbing inside faucet w/napkin.) on off week of cleaning. but they have to show their documentation. they have my receipts&signoff sheet to show my work.they have option to do theirselves, but from my understanding distributors arent allowed to clean lines anymore.(chicago politics?). i always make sure i clean faucets every visit!!! and on a first visit w/new acct. i break handles open to show them the nastiness!!!! got some real fly by niters out there. always take pride in your work ,its your best buisness card. in my area,retailer network is small&ttight. were sorta like the maytag man, the last one to think of when things go on the fritz!!!! gotta go, my head hurts! cya.....brian


                  • #10
                    Here's a timely article on the subject from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Bad beer in Brew City"


                    • #11
                      line cleaning laws

                      greetings to all... all i can say is wow!!!! of all the places in the world..... everyone please read ale brewers story. copied it off let my queen read it. all i got is a youve got to be kidding! now she knows i do more than hang out in bars all day!!!! cya...brian


                      • #12
                        Anyone know where to get there hands on the swab test kits that let you do an on site sample of bacteria/yeast counts? I've heard Budweiser lab folks in the field can pull out this vial swab a faucet and get a count. It would be nice to monitor effectiveness of cleaning cycles and possibly as a sales tool if you can go in there and say "look, your lines can be cleaner".
                        Blue Line Draft Systems


                        • #13
                          test swabs

                          I would love that too, we could also use those here at the brewery
                          For truly Effective draft beer maintenance call the only team in Minnesota good enough to be called...

                          Effective Line Cleaning

                          That Guy In The Cooler8-yr Brew Coach at the longest-running, most-successful Brew-on-premises in the United States3 yr owner/operator of the twin cities premiere draft beer team - we have over 60 clients spanning all of the metro areas plus we utilize the industry preferred Pump-based circulation cleaning method!


                          • #14
                            Don't be to hard on Milwaukee. I am willing to bet that there are other market areas where cleaning practices are insufficient as well. The samples for this audit was actual beer which then was transported to the lab for testing for yeast, mold and bacteria using plate count method. Plate count method is regarding by labs as one of the most accurate methods for this type of testing.

                            The system used by AB is a surface swabbing method utilized with a handheld electronic ATP device that measures RLUs (Relative Light Units). The lower the RLU count, the cleaner the surface. These units require training for correct usage and can produce inconsistent readings if used improperly.
                            Scott Zuhse, Instructor Micro Matic Dispense Institute


                            • #15
                              state laws

                              greetings to all... Scott, was not giving no disrespect to Milwaukee, just in my head i think BEER, and the town pops in my head. (too much tv as a child.)But, there are so many suppliers in the state.I deal with a couple personally.Anyone,does the cleaning law deal with Milwaukee proper or statewide(duh.)...............cya,brian