At a moment when the U.S. craft beer industry seemed poised for increased growth through the taproom boom, many of these businesses now face layoffs.
Across the country, the Coronavirus spread has already hit alcohol producers hard. Taprooms had become the lifeblood of the modern brewery, but that’s now an impossible model with bars and restaurants forced to close their doors in slowing the pandemic.
Business has plummeted. The result has been catastrophic for staff. Russian River, among the top-ranked breweries in the country, has reportedly laid off 90% of its staff, or about 175 workers.
That same startling number — 90% — also represents the amount of employees 54-40 Brewing out of Washington State reportedly had to let go as COVID-19 forced difficult decisions.
The timing was extra cruel, given how much success that company had enjoyed in 2020.
“It’s just a real gut-punch because we’ve been on track to do the best year that we have,” Bolt Minister told Katu Newa. “We were hoping to be at capacity in our brew house by the end of the year, by summer really.”
Many breweries, distilleries and wineries are still allowed to sell alcohol via curbside pickup. But that service — onsite packaged sales — had represented only a small amount of the business pre-Coronavirus, as little as 10%. Whether curbside pickup sales can grow, and support a businesses, during this crisis remains to be seen.
Otherwise, many of these producers risk going out of business. It certainly paints a grim picture when Vice President Mike Pence warns that COVID-19 could continue significant disruption of American life through July.