The exact words exchanged between Deep Ellum Brewing sales rep John Wiewel and Dylan Elchami, who owns Oak Lawn's Scotch & Sausage, will likely never be agreed upon. Wiewel made a sales call to the restaurant recently, and then accused Elchami -- on Facebook -- of illegal practices with regards to the procurement of beer. Elchami denies those allegations, and now TABC is taking a closer look at what initially started as an Internet flame-throwing event.
Scotch & Sausage, which opened less than two months ago, serves a large amount of local beer from its 21 taps. Peticolas, Lakewood, Four Corners, Revolver, Rabbit Hole, Community and others are all currently represented, or have been represented in the past. Deep Ellum Brewery's beers, however, have never been served at the restaurant.
It's not for lack of effort on the part of Deep Ellum's sales reps. According to Elchami, the brewery paid five visits (a number confirmed by brewery founder John Reardon) to Scotch & Sausage in an attempt to convince the owner to devote a tap or two to DEBC. At the end of each of those visits, Elchami says he gave the same answer: Deep Ellum's products didn't align with what he wanted to offer his customers. Scotch & Sausage specializes in German sausages and Belgian french fries, among other things. He wasn't interested in an American IPA, or any of their other beers for that matter, he says.
According to Elchami, Wiewel's latest visit was unscheduled -- beer sales reps often make appointments -- and the answer was the same: all our taps are full right now. Wiewel left, and it looked like just another failed sales attempt. But then a message popped up on Deep Ellum's Facebook page.
"Dallas, we have a problem," the post started, and went on to lob accusations at Elchami. The post accused Scotch and Sausage of demanding kickbacks or special treatment if they wanted to see their beers on tap. Specifically it charged that Scotch and Sausage demanded a payment of $120 per week, or a 50-percent discount on the beer. The practice is called pay-to-play, the post accused, and is "illegal -- not to mention, unethical."
At this point, nobody at DEBC had bothered to contact Scotch & Sausage with the allegations, but that didn't stop the news from making it to TABC.
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"Pay to Play in this context is a violation of the Alcoholic Beverage Code," TABC representative Carolyn Beck says. There are several sections of the AB Code that make it clear that the manufacturer cannot pay the retailer to carry his product." Beck indicated that TABC was investigating the allegations and will talk to both sides to determine what happened.
Scotch & Sausage co-owner Rami Rassas denies any wrongdoing. "I don't want to say anything negative," he said. "The way things happened was unfortunate." Rassas says he contacted DEBC's Reardon, who takes credit for the initial Facebook post. A series of responses from both parties have devolved into hissy fight.
This isn't the first time Reardon has made news for his Internet strategy. Last fall the slogan for his Dallas Blonde ale, "it goes down easy," caught the attention of women's rights advocates. After attention swelled, Reardon said he would remove the slogan from his distribution van. He never did.
Rassas seems aware that the whole altercation could be a stunt: "Publicity is good, but I don't like animosity." Elchami, meanwhile, contends that his was just a personal decision, and he never wanted the beer, kickbacks or otherwise. "It's not that I don't like it," Elchami says of DEBC's products. "I may go out and drink it at another bar. I just don't like it for what I'm doing here."