JAMAICA: Free Beer For 1,800 Bars

(Jamaica Gleaner) – Red Stripe Jamaica and Pepsi Jamaica will be giving away 6,000 cases of beverages, a move that serves not only to give the sellers of liquor the stock to bring back life to their businesses, but also positions the brewery to ramp up sales as customers return to their watering holes.

The gift of beers, soft drinks and water will see the distribution of $25 million worth of products to 1,865 bars across Jamaica through their joint venture company, Celebration Brands Limited.

The initiative follows the two-month closure of bars as part of virus containment measures implemented by the Jamaican Government to mitigate against the spread of COVID-19.

Tuesday marked the start of a two-week probationary period under which bars can conditionally reopen. It was also the day Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that Jamaica would start reopening its economy on June 1, with the return of persons to offices and other workplaces.

“With the reopening of the economy, it means we will have a phased re-entry of employees who have been working from home. Additionally, we have a detailed sales and operation planning process which will closely monitor the demand signals from the market; our operations and distribution will respond,” Red Stripe said.

The reopening guidelines includes operating from 11 a.m. each day to an hour before the islandwide curfew begins; and persons inside the establishment limited to five persons, including the bartender.

“We will begin reaching out to the 1,865 bar operators on May 25. There was a set of criteria we looked for, but these are bars we already have ongoing relationship with,” Red Stripe Managing Director Luis Prata told the Financial Gleaner during a virtual press launch on Tuesday.

The number of establishments targeted represents only 16 per cent of community bars and taverns across Jamaica, according to latest survey by the Social Development Commission.

“Of course, we would like to assist all 11,000 bars but we have to start somewhere,” Prata said.

Community bars account for some 10 per cent of Red Stripe’s sales, but the brewery did not specify the impact on its finances in dollar terms since the March 18 lockdown of bars, nightclubs and other entertainment spots.

“Since the outbreak, we had our sales impacted by COVID-19, and the longer it takes, the worse it will be for our business. That’s why we have to be careful in the first phase of the reopening; this has to go gradually in the right direction so we gain confidence to get to an acceptable place,” Prata said.

Owned by Heineken International, Red Stripe Jamaica is a leading corporation, employing more than 300 workers. It brews and distributes Red Stripe beer, the flagship product, and also markets brands such as Heineken, Dragon, Guinness, Smirnoff, Baileys and Johnnie Walker.

Red Stripe indicated Tuesday that the gift of beer was not from backed up inventory, saying: “We have been proactively managing inventory levels throughout all the stages of production. So, the stock levels are absolutely normal for our current sales volumes.”