Massive Layoffs?

Dear Client:

One question that looms over the industry: Amid brewery taprooms and restaurants closing, and the scary spectre of the unknown, how significant will industry layoffs be? 

One reader wrote in with news that one of the larger craft brewers in Indiana could be laying off close to 200 people. 

We asked Brewers Association economist Bart Watson if many members had shared the need to lay off or furlough scores of workers. 

Bart said their COVID-19 impact survey should be completed (and posted!) tomorrow. So we’ll know soon.  

He said they’re also about to publish “a clearinghouse form on tonight/tomorrow that allows breweries to tell us how to support them (i.e to go sales, online, etc) and tries to connect those efforts with beer lovers in a single place.” 

Based on what we are hearing, we expect the craft industry layoffs to be significant. One Massachusetts brewer is hearing from their peers that “nearly everyone is doing layoffs.”

As we reported yesterday, it’s particularly tough in California, with its 1,000-plus breweries, many of whom rely on own-premise sales (now largely shuttered, save for some “to-go” operations) for a significant chunk of their business. 

And CCBA chief Tom McCormick told CBD they still don’t have clarity on the letter of the law. For example, as we reported yesterday, 7 counties in the San Francisco Bay Area have a “shelter in place” directive, basically only allowing residents to leave for “essential” errands. (We’re reading a similar measure may be imminent for New York City, as Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering a shelter-in-place order.) 

But Tom says there’s still a question whether that directive allows breweries and on-premise restaurants to sell to-go. 

“We don’t know the answer to that yet. A lot of confusion. … These directives are being issued without the government agency having all the answers.”


Last night, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz closed bars and restaurants for on-premise sales, effective today through March 27. 

Summit Brewing Co. founder Mark Stutrud responded to the measure in a newsletter update to partners and patrons. It’s the type of update we’ve seen from many brewers in recent days, and we expect there to be more. 

“Due to the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 outbreak and the most recent recommendations made by the CDC, WHO, Departments of Health and our various government offices, earlier today we made the decision to temporarily suspend all public Ratskeller hours, tours, non-profit and other related events and programming in our beer hall, effectively immediately and until further notice. We will continue to assess and follow the guidance of the government and major health organizations as to when we will re-open to the public,” Mark Stutrud wrote.

“Our focus and priority remain with protecting the health and well-being of our staff, facility and business. Brewery operations will continue as normal, but as of today we will be prohibiting non-essential visitors and business meetings at Summit for the time being.” 

ON THE OTHER HAND, some are holding on as long as they can.

Though it appears Sonoma County may be next in line for North California’s “shelter in place” measures, area brewer Bear Republic sent note yesterday afternoon to patrons that it’s still open, with tweaks. 

“Bear Republic is open, and at this time, we are doing everything to provide great service and make you feel at home and safe. Governor Newsom mandated all restaurants to cut seating in half, which we are doing as well as spacing guests out so they are not within 6 feet of another table.  We have a vast and large space, and a beautiful beer garden, so we can all spread out. In order to further protect our guests and staff, all food and beverage orders will be taken at the bar to limit everyone’s interaction.”

They’re also adding curbside service for food and beer pickup.  

Until tomorrow,

Jenn, Jordan, and Harry 

“Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.”

– Jean-Paul Sartre

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