As more Americans are self-quarantining and transitioning to socially distant lifestyles to help contain the COVID19, local breweries and brewpubs are in a crisis. These small businesses are working to transform their operations from in-house sales to deliveries and takeouts, while facing gut-wrenching decisions about how to do right by their loyal employees. There is little clarity about how long the public health emergency will last.
In this episode, Richard speaks with brewery professionals from DC, Virginia, and Maryland about how they are handling the current challenges and what local, state, and federal governments should do to keep them afloat during and after the pandemic.
Paul Dean Outlines Local Government Actions to Help Breweries
DC Brewers’ Guild Executive Director Paul Dean reviews the current status of breweries and brewpubs in Washington DC. All breweries now are transitioning their business models to take-out and delivery and are looking for government assistance for their businesses and employees.
Paul says that, fortunately, the DC City Council allows all breweries to have to-go services (this is not the case in every state). Mayor Muriel Bowser’s recent public health disaster declaration also gives breweries the opportunity to apply for SBA disaster loans. Moreover, the DC City Council recently authorized a small grant program to offer micro-grants to small businesses. Paul calls for the DC government to maintain these relief measures for small businesses until the economy experiences a full recovery.
Paul also notes that the national-level Brewers Association (BA) is a helpful resource for local chapters seeking to understand current government resources (including the BA’s coronavirus resource center).
Rocket Frog Is Transitioning to Takeout and Delivery, But Calls for Loan and Rent Relief
David Hartogs, co-founder of Rocket Frog Brewing Company, discusses how his brewery is adjusting to the coronavirus pandemic. Notably, Rocket Frog has applied to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) for a beer delivery license. It is also open for to-go sales (including canned beers, merchandise, and gift cards).
David’s biggest concern is for his employees, who have been loyal to Rocket Frog ever since they opened their doors two year ago. He is working to pay them for as long as possible. To-go sales help bring in some revenues, but their business continues to struggle without taproom sales.
David emphasizes that the most impactful government response would be to issue deferments on loans and rent, which would give breweries some breathing room until the pandemic ends.
True Respite Also Urges Rent and Loan Relief for Breweries
Brendan and Bailey O’Leary of True Respite Brewing Company saw the writing on the wall several weeks ago. They prepared ahead of time for the current situation by creating an online marketplace for brewery pickup and delivery sales called biermi.com. Any brewery in America can join the platform for free. Take a look today and order some beers to help ease the pain of quarantine!
The two biggest challenges for Brendan and Bailey during the pandemic are (1) changing business plans from in-store sales to online pickup and delivery services, and (2) doing right by their loyal staff.
Brendan and Bailey also called on the US government to defer rent and loan payments for small businesses. Brendan believes it makes much more sense to give loans to landlords and banks who would, in turn, offer deferments to small businesses, instead of offering deferments to small businesses that would have a very difficult time paying them back.
Brendan, Bailey, and Richard agree that the US government must have a bottom-up response to the crisis–it must ensure that small businesses and their employees will survive. The economy will have difficulty recovering without strong protections for individual and small businesses.
DC Beer Show followers, please continue to order (takeout or delivery) from your local breweries and brewpubs to help them through these difficult times! Tip generously!