Beer Run

Can Twelve Rounds survive a social media disaster that turned off customers?

Twelve Rounds Brewing owners, Elle and Dan Murphy, photographed in 2015, have been at the heart of a controversy sparked by Dan Murphy’s Facebook posts blasting the Women’s March, Muslims and other targets. Boycott threats have been called against the East Sacramento brewery, while others have come out to support the business.
Twelve Rounds Brewing owners, Elle and Dan Murphy, photographed in 2015, have been at the heart of a controversy sparked by Dan Murphy’s Facebook posts blasting the Women’s March, Muslims and other targets. Boycott threats have been called against the East Sacramento brewery, while others have come out to support the business. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Do craft beer patrons have a certain political bent? Are they likely to be more liberal, moderate or conservative? Do they wear way more plaid flannel shirts than the general population?

If you’re in the hospitality industry, here’s the only answer that should matter to you: It doesn’t matter.

When it comes to political views, breweries should have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Arguing about politics, religion and conspiracy theories are simply bad for business.

Understood by most already, this simple lesson came screaming into our collective consciousness nearly two weeks ago when award-winning brewer Daniel Murphy’s personal Facebook posts leaked into the public sphere, beginning with one where he said he was “disgusted” with the Women’s March. To put it charitably, some of Murphy’s other political and social views fall well outside the bounds of polite or even reasonable political discourse.

Can you suggest that the nation’s first black president was actually a Muslim and a traitor without decimating all that good will you’ve spent months building up? Can you use racist terms for Pakistanis? Why would you even go there? All those millennial couples and their cute kids and fluffy dogs I saw sitting outside drinking beer and socializing last summer? They likely don’t want to be connected to that kind of rhetoric.

To be a successful business that optimizes profits and is good for the community, a brewery should be a welcome place for people of all walks of life and political perspectives. This has nothing to do with the First Amendment or one man’s right to give his opinion. It’s Business 101.

Is there a way out of this hole Murphy has dug himself?

I asked straight-shooting Evan Elsberry of the popular restaurant Evan’s Kitchen, which is across 57th Street. He’s been handling the food program for Twelve Rounds – you can place an order from the brewery and have Elsberry’s superb cooking delivered in minutes. Several days ago, he walked across the street to check in with Murphy.

“I told him, ‘I don’t agree with what you said, but I’m going to stand by you as a business owner,’ ” Elsberry told me. “I know the guy personally and feel bad for him. It’s a good business. He just really messed up.”

Elsberry has seen the short-term spike in attention. He’s even benefited from it.

“In the last four days, I was swamped with orders from the brewery. It’s not hurting his business yet, but it’s going to catch up to him.”

A new company, Disrupt Marketing, was so intrigued by Twelve Rounds’ predicament that company co-founder Soreath Hok, a former news producer at KCRA Channel 3, wrote a detailed Facebook post with an abundance of excellent advice. She says the brewery needs to create personal, sincere videos that address those who feel let down or insulted by Murphy’s posts. Here’s an excerpt:

“Sharing content that emotionally resonates is key. We would advise them to speak from a first-person standpoint and show their willingness to accept others. This will not alienate their current customers who share their views and it will also be an olive branch for the customers they've offended. They also need testimonials from people who have nice things to say about them in this time of need – preferably from a diverse group of women, people of color, people of different religions – basically all the groups that have been the target of his rants.”

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob

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