Hospitality

Pubs boycott Coopers after its beer appears in contentious marriage equality video

Dominic Powell /

A number of Melbourne and Sydney bars and pubs have stopped serving beer made by Australian brewer Coopers in response to a controversial promotional video from the Bible Society that featured the company’s products.

Last Wednesday, Bible Society Australia released a promotional video called “Keeping it Light”, which featured Liberal MPs Andrew Hastie and Tim Wilson.

In the video, the two MPs discuss same-sex marriage with host and moderator Matt Andrews in what they say is a “light discussion about a very heavy topic”. Throughout the discussion, the three drink Coopers Premium Light, which features heavily throughout the video.

Since the video’s release, Coopers has faced heavy criticism for the topic of the discussion in the video, and its partnership with the Bible Society, which includes a commemorative anniversary edition of Coopers Premium Light beer, and the topic of the discussion in the video.

Some of the criticism has come from venues that serve the brand’s beer, with a number of Melbourne and Sydney bars and clubs opting to take a public stance.

In a statement on Facebook, Fitzroy bar The Old Bar said it would no longer be purchasing Coopers’ stock, as it was “obvious that our values are at odds”.

However, speaking to SmartCompany, a spokesperson from The Old Bar said the choice to stop purchasing Coopers “is not really a boycott”.

“We have simply decided not to purchase stock from them anymore, in a very public way of course,” the spokesperson said.

“The reason we used a social media forum is because we have very strong feeling on what they have done over the last week and really wanted people to understand that we did not support any of it.”

The Newtown Hotel in Sydney is also replacing its Coopers offering, and in a statement to SmartCompany said it would rather support local breweries.

“Dr. Tim Cooper and the Coopers Brewery are entitled to spend their money however they wish — as are we,” said the business in a statement.

“The Newtown Hotel has a proud queer history dating back to the early 1980s, and we intend to put our money where our mouth is by backing local breweries who support our values, and the values of the vast majority of the Australian community.”

Read more: Australian pubs boycott number one beer in support of sacked workers

Coopers says it did not intend beer to feature in Bible Society video

While family run and owned Coopers partnered with the Bible Society to release a limited run of 10,000 cases of Premium Light beer printed with Bible verses to celebrate the Society’s 200th birthday, the brewer says it “did not give permission for our Premium Light beer to feature in, or ‘sponsor’ the Bible Society’s ‘Keeping it Light’ video featuring Andrew Hastie and Tim Wilson”.

Bible Society chief executive Greg Clarke has also backed up the statement, telling the ABC, “It’s true that they didn’t sponsor the video, no money changed hands, they weren’t consulted, that was entirely the Bible Society’s work”.

Despite this, Coopers fans quickly took to social media to denounce Coopers, leaving negative reviews on the company’s Facebook page, with many slamming the company for not recognising its consumer demographic.

“It’s an interesting position to take, still backing the Bible Society partnership. Your key demographic is 18-35-year-olds. Over 80% of us support marriage equality,” wrote one commenter.

“Only genuine public support from Coopers for marriage equality could drag me back to your brand now.”

Hundreds of negative reviews were also left on Coopers’ Facebook page, with an average score of 1.4 out of 5.

Bars hope Coopers explains its actions

Old Bar says it maintains a “great” relationship with its Coopers representative, so the bar hopes the company will make a statement “that somehow explains their actions” soon.

In a public statement released via Facebook, Coopers claimed it was “not trying to push a religious message” through its Bible Society promotional partnership.

“We respect the beliefs of our community and do not wish to try and change them. Our family brewery is made up of individuals from a number of different backgrounds, all of whom hold differing views on politics and religion, which we think is reflective of the wider community,” the company said in a statement.

“We would like all Coopers fans to know that we support and embrace all of our beer drinking community.”

SmartCompany contacted Coopers but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the former features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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