Everyone has had that idea at one point: “What if we opened a bar? Or started our own distillery?” It sounds like a great idea! Until you sit down and actually try it… and come to the terrible and sudden realization that you basically need a legal degree to untangle all the rules and regulations. But for those who are semi-serious about opening a spirits-related business, Set The Bar is an app that tries to make that process easier for entrepreneurs by organizing all of the pertinent information in one place.
We bumped into the folks behind Set The Bar at the American Craft Spirits Association trade show this year and they were nice enough to give us a license to play around in the app and see for ourselves how useful it might be to people in the industry.
The app has four functions: browsing your local state laws, testing your knowledge, a glossary of industry terms, and the ability to contact a lawyer if you get into a situation you can’t solve otherwise.
Overall, the app seems specifically geared towards marketing and distribution functions. I’ll get into the details of each section in a minute, but even these categories feel like it’s designed for someone who might be trying to do a marketing drive for a local distillery for example.
The real killer feature of this app is the section on state laws, where the app allows you to select from a list the state you want information about.
I could see it auto-detecting the state you are currently in or remembering your “favorite” state being an easy feature to add in future releases, but to be frank that might just be me over-engineering something that doesn’t really need that stuff. It’s also handy to have the full list each time, since you would probably only need this for reference when you go somewhere new where you don’t know the laws like the back of your hand.
Once you click into a state, the app displays a set list of items that you might want to know about: whether you can advertise your brand, laws about giving free alcohol as a gift, etc. Like I said — primarily geared towards marketing teams, but it’s definitely useful for any breweries, distilleries, or bars that are trying to drum up a little more business.
For each item there’s a button that takes you to a section with more information that goes in-depth on what you can and can’t do or lays out some more specific regulations. It’s a good feature, but the way it is implemented is that it basically hot-links you to a specific location on a larger single page. The information is good, but I feel like the implementation could use a bit of work to make it pop-up just that one section at a time.
Moving on to the industry terms section, this is just a big list of definitions for words used in various regulations and within the industry itself. It’s a good list but it didn’t seem to have a search function that I could easily find (at least in the version I tested on Android), which would have made it a little more usable.
If you’re someone who has been in the industry for a while this stuff might be second nature, but again, if your target audience is someone who is in the marketing team for a brand or a distillery then this is a great thing to give them. They might not have that industry experience, so having something in their pockets that is a reliable source of truth in the field is great to have.
The last feature that we tested was the knowledge test portion of the app. It’s a great idea, but I feel like the execution could use some work. Some minor improvements to the user interface (better buttons, maybe a running counter for score) could really help gamify the experience and make this something someone would want to play with.
As-is, though, I could still envision this being a useful onboarding task for new hires before they’re sent out into the field. It might even be worth the app developers adding something like a certificate you can download or email (especially to your boss!) at the end.
There’s one last section that we didn’t test, which is asking a lawyer for help. This seemed like it would just email your question to a lawyer, which honestly might be the most important feature they have.
The terms and conditions of the subscription isn’t exactly clear, but if the annual fee includes a certain number of questions that you can ask a lawyer and get some proper advice, then I could quickly see this being absolutely worth every penny they are asking. That kind of advice is expensive, and having a dedicated help button that goes straight to an attorney that can actually help you in your specific situation is worth its weight in gold.
Set The Bar
Available on iOS and Android
Annual Fee: $2,500
This isn’t an app that your average recreational drinker is going to buy — this is something designed specifically for the industry. (Even more specifically, it seems, for the marketing team of an alcohol-related brand.) In that context, this seems like a no-brainer to buy and equip your team with, as it really does have some great detail and information at your fingertips about what is kosher in each state.
And if the “ask a lawyer” function works as I suspect it does, that alone is worth the subscription.