We masked up. We stayed home. When we drank at breweries, we did so outside, or in taprooms operating at 50% capacity or less. We shopped local, and bought local, via BierMi, or other platforms. And yet, here we are. This year-long group project where only some of us do the work, carrying the rest, is hopefully maybe almost over; there’s a vaccine, but the holidays means traveling and super-spreading for some. But this article isn’t about what people could have, should have done. Rather, it’s about the institutions that failed us, because, you see, there are no individual solutions to structural problems. I’m going to repeat this. I’m going to shout it from the rooftops: THERE ARE NO INDIVIDUAL SOLUTIONS TO STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS.
There is nothing you, or I, or all of us, DCBeer.com readership can or could do to save the local bars, breweries, and restaurants we know and love. I could drink nothing but Astro Lab beer from March to now, pairing it with food from Smoke and Barrel, and it wouldn’t matter. Brandy can walk to Hellbender, Greg can walk to Right Proper, and the result is the same. Breweries need our dollars, but they need government intervention and relief more, in the form of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and loan forgiveness, in the form of increased and sustained unemployment benefits, in the form of rent abatements, and in the form of direct cash payments to people who will spend that money.
Folks talking about structural interventions rather than putting the onus on individual-level, capitalist actions—you love to see it! 👏👏👏 https://t.co/ItmJ7Vj3tU
— Kate Bernot (@kbernot) November 29, 2020
It was easier to ask that people buy local in March and April–sure, maybe this lasts a few months, we thought. It turns out we were wrong. We continue to ask people to support the businesses we want to see on the other side of this, and we stand by that. But it’s at least a half-lie. Yes, those dollars we spend really do matter, but that pales in comparison to what could be done, what should be done by institutions, by the federal government, and not by individuals.
Percent of wages currently subsidized by governments due to COVID:
Japan: 100% for small businesses; 80% for large firms
Netherlands: Up to 90%
Norway: Up to 90%
Germany: Up to 87%
France: Up to 84%
United Kingdom: Up to 80%
Canada: Up to 75%
United States: 0%
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) November 30, 2020
I’m told another world is possible, but most days I’m not so sure. Craft, independent beer has been an “affordable luxury” for many; that people can buy the occasional 4- or 6-pack has fueled its rise over the last twenty-plus years. Six hundred dollars is a laughable amount to give to individuals, a “fuck you” that won’t cover the average month of rent in any of the 50 states. No rent, no beer. A system we pay into could and should deliver us more.
The Brewers Association secured permanent passage of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) in the most recent COVID-19 relief and government spending bill, which also includes additional PPP loans. These are wins, yes. But they should also be looked at as what they are: bandages on economic wounds that need more.
So buy beer from a bunch of local breweries if you can, and find and contact your elected officials, even though you are probably not a resident of Kentucky or Georgia, thus have no power to effect change. Tell them you want to help small business, and people who are un- and under-employed. Raise a stink, and do it with a beer in hand. Here’s hoping 2021 is better to all of us, and that the back half of the year is filled with festivals and other events. Have a happy, and above all, healthy, end of 2020. Thanks for reading, and thanks for all you do.