CHICAGO — Several Chicago bars announced Friday they will not be selling Anheuser-Busch beverages in response to the company’s recent controversy surrounding transgender activist and influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
Five local bars have pulled Anheuser-Busch products, which include Bud Light and Goose Island 312. The company partnered with Mulvaney last month. Mulvaney has more than 10.8 million followers on social media. On April 1, Mulvaney posted a video on Instagram showing herself cracking open a can of Bud Light, one with the hashtag #budlightpartner.
But the partnership quickly brought calls for boycotts and an onslaught of criticism.
Three days after Mulvaney’s post, Kid Rock posted a video of himself shooting cases of Bud Light. Shares of Bud Light’s parent, AB InBev, temporarily plunged and the company issued a terse statement in response to the controversy.
Last week, Anheuser-Busch — AB InBev’s U.S. subsidiary — confirmed that Alissa Heinerscheid, its vice president of marketing, and her boss, Daniel Blake, are taking a leave of absence. The company won’t say when they will return or whether they’re being paid.
A spokesperson for Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, did not directly confirm the leave of absence but said Allen as vice president of Bud Light will report directly to Benoit Garbe, U.S. chief marketing officer. The company also made streamlining changes so that its most senior marketers are more closely connected to all of its brand activities.
Sidetrack Bar, in Chicago’s Northalsted neighborhood, posted a message to their Instagram account Friday with the caption, “In response to actions and statements taken by Anheuser-Busch which strongly bring into question their support of the LGBTQ+ community, Sidetrack will cease selling Bud, Bud Light and 312.”
“For 41 years Sidetrack has encouraged liquor and beer companies that have wished to garner the LGBTQ+ customer base to actively support our community. For many years, there were very few companies that were willing to risk this sort of exposure,” the statement said. “We must hold brans accountable if they take active steps against LGBTQ+ equality, visibility, and safety. Bud Light’s recent decision to drop the Dylan Mulvany campaign, to put on ‘leave’ those who created it, as well as the statement by its CEO, wrongfully validates the position that is is acceptable to acquis to the demands of the whose who do not support the Trans Community and wish to erase LGBTQ+ visibility. … Until Anheuser-Busch can clearly demonstrate that they will not acquiesce to the voice of hate that wishes to erase LGBTQ+ existence, Sidetrack will continue to boycott their products.”
2Bears Tavern Group also announced their establishments “are discontinuing Anheuser-Busch InBev products as a result of the brewer’s anti-transgender actions and statements” and posted a similar message on their Instagram account.
In addition to 2Bears Tavern, the group also owns The Sofo Tap, Meeting House Tavern, and Jackhammer Chicago.
“In view of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s abandonment of its support of transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney, the subsequent reprehensible and divisive comments by its CEO … 2Bears Tavern Group is discontinuing all Anheuser-Busch InBev products including Busch Light, Bud Light, and Goose Island 312,” the post said.
Mark Robertson, co-owner of 2Bears Tavern group, explained the motivation behind the move.
“[Anheuser-Busch] essentially gave the people who were spewing hate a platform to claim a win,” Robertson said. “As an LGBTQ-owned business and with our customers being majority LGBTQ, we are not interested in supporting anybody, whether it be a for-profit or nonprofit that does not support us.”
In the week ending April 22, Bud Light’s U.S. sales dropped 21% compared to the same week a year ago, with rivals Miller Lite and Coors Lite appearing to pick up those sales, according to Bump Williams Consulting. Bud Light’s U.S. sales are down 3% so far this year, the Associated Press reports.
Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business told WGN News that the Bud Light campaign became far more controversial than anyone expected.
“There’s really one win here for Bud Light,” he said. “On the one side, the more conservative community is annoyed about the sponsorship. On the other side, the LGBTQ community is annoyed because Bud Light didn’t really behind or take a stand one way or another.”
But how does Bud Light bounce back? Calkins believes it’s going to take time.
“It’s gonna be bumpy for Bud Light because right now a lot of people don’t feel good about picking up a Bud Light,” he said.
The company announced Thursday it will triple its marketing spending in the U.S. this summer to try and boost sales.