Several Chicago-area gay bars have stopped selling Anheuser-Busch products in response to the beer giant’s attempts to distance itself from a marketing campaign that Bud Light undertook with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
2Bears Tavern Group, which owns four gay bars on the city’s north side — Meeting House Tavern, 2Bears Tavern Uptown, The SoFo Tap, and Jackhammer — posted to Instagram last week that it would discontinue sales of all Anheuser-Busch products, including popular beers Busch Light, Bud Light, and Goose Island 312, as first reported by Block Club Chicago.
In its post, 2Bears Tavern Group condemned Anheuser-Busch for its decision to drop its support for Mulvaney after enlisting her for a digital marketing campaign during “March Madness,” the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball championship playoffs.
As part of the campaign, Mulvaney appeared in a digital ad promoting the beer while wearing an evening gown, and filmed another promotional spot featuring her taking a bubble bath in a bathing suit.
Bud Light also sent Mulvaney a commemorative can with her face on the side celebrating the first anniversary of her TikTok series “Days of Girlhood,” in which she documented her social and medical transition from male to female. The can was not for sale to the public.
The use of a transgender person in the campaign led to a backlash among Bud Light’s culturally conservative consumer base, leading to a drop in sales of Bud Light, and a decrease in market value for Anheuser-Busch.
Egged on by conservative celebrities like Kid Rock, Travis Tritt, John Rich, and Caitlyn Jenner, as well as right-wing media outlets, calls for a larger boycott of Anheuser-Busch products soon followed.
The company’s U.S. CEO, Brendan Whitworth, issued a non-apology statement that sought to distance the company from the Mulvaney campaign, saying the company “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” and two marketing executives who approved the Mulvaney partnership were placed on involuntary leave.
2Bears Tavern Group criticized Anheuser-Busch for its reaction to the negative publicity, arguing that the company should have stood by Mulvaney instead of backtracking.
“Anheuser-Busch’s decision to drop its support of Mulvaney in response to ignorant and hateful objections by some of its customers shows how little Anheuser-Busch cares about the LGBTQIA+ community, and in particular transgender people, who have been under unrelenting attack in this country,” the 2Bears Tavern Group’s Instagram post reads.
The company said Whitworth’s non-apology “was tantamount to saying that the rights and safety of transgender people are topics worthy of debate,” asserting that the transgender community cannot be separated from the rest of the LGBTQ community.
“We gave Anheuser-Busch some time to revisit its position, hoping it would realize it acted in haste. It did not. Instead, it went further in the wrong direction, apparently seeking to punish the people who came up with the plan to recognize Mulvaney in the first place by placing several of them on leave,” the Instagram post continued. “That speaks volumes about how far [Anheuser-Busch] will go to placate those in this country who sow hate and division.”
Meanwhile, Sidetrack, a 41-year-old gay bar in the city’s Lakeview neighborhood, also declared that it would stop selling Busch Light, Bud Light, and Goose Island 312.
“We must also hold brands accountable if they take active steps against LGBTQ+ equality, visibility and safety,” the bar posted to its Instagram.
Anheuser-Busch’s global CEO, Michel Doukeris, previously addressed the ongoing controversy in an earnings call with investors last week, seeking to “clarify” that the Mulvaney promotion was a single social media post and not a campaign, and blaming “misinformation” concerning the company’s relationship with Mulvaney for fueling the controversy, according to Forbes.
But Sidetrack said in its post that the company’s efforts to distance itself from Mulvaney “wrongfully validates the position that it is acceptable to acquiesce to the demands of those who do not support the trans community.”
“Until Anheuser-Busch can clearly demonstrate that they will not acquiesce to the voices of hate that wish to erase LGBTQ+ existence, Sidetrack will continue to boycott their products,” the post concluded. “Until then, Sidetrack will continue to partner with brands that work to give back to the LGBTQ+ community and lift the voices of all its members.”
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