Only the strong will survive this. A new brewery or one that has not found financial stability is in deep trouble of huge losses and most likely closure due to COVID-19. It’s just a fact. Despite pleas and community energy from passionate craft-beer folks, the reality is that to-go orders, gift cards, and merch sales alone probably will not be able to keep the lights on for many. That’s where the government is trying to come in.
Many folks in this industry blast regulators for seemingly arbitrary, arcane, and paternalistic regulations and laws on the books. Me too—sometimes. But I am heartened to see the speedy and agile response that many state regulators have taken to at least try to keep breweries and related manufacturers in business. It has been only five days; yet many states are doing their part. California, for example, has relaxed several of the less business friendly restrictions in record time—all of which were prohibited six days ago. To wit (each with exceptions and caveats and only for the time being):
- Retail-to-Retail Transactions: off-sale retailers can purchase alcoholic beverages from on-sale retailers to avoid spoliation.
- Extension of credit: manufacturers may extend credit to retailers beyond 30 days.
- On-sale retailers can sell for off-sale consumption.
- Bona fide eating places may sell to-go drinks for pickup or delivery (huge btw).
- Any licensee can sell beverages to people in motor vehicles outside the premises through a pass-out window or slide out tray (think drive thru).
- Delivery is permitted.
And even some states that are less craft-beer friendly are getting in on the game. For example, South Carolina has similarly suspended the prohibition on drive-thru or curbside pickup. Still, for those states that have not gotten their act together, now is the time (looking at you Kentucky et al.).
And another good that is coming out of this thing are those craft distilleries doing their part by suspending distilled liquor production and moving it to hand sanitizer. Because hand sanitizer is not a distilled beverage, it legally comes outside the purview of state alcoholic beverage regulators. Check your FDA obligations though.
So thanks to most state governments for trying to help independent beer during this catastrophe. For those that haven’t yet, come on people. After all, most states have at least implicitly recognized that independent beer is “essential” by leaving them open during this pandemic. At least, I’d argue that in court if I had to.
As always, check your state’s alcoholic beverage control agency’s website for updates and can and can’t dos. Enjoy a local beer—nobody is driving anywhere. Support local now more than ever.