The impact of COVID-19 has proven devastating to the United States and while those brave heroes on the frontlines continue to save so many lives, the reach of this pandemic goes so much further. Perhaps the hardest hit, from an economic standpoint, is the restaurant industry which includes the craft beer landscape, with more than 8,100 breweries from coast to coast.
Whether it’s curbside pickup, unique delivery options, new releases or digging deep into vintage cellars, local beer producers are doing whatever it takes to keep afloat. But according to a survey done by the Brewers Association, breweries have seen an average drop of 66 percent in onsite sales, while the largest blow comes at the hand of distributed draught, which has seen an average drop by 91 percent. No one is going out, so there’s no need for breweries to produce beer in kegs. With such a staggering loss in sales for who knows how long, a majority of brewery owners believe that their businesses cannot last three months if these conditions don’t change. And much like most other businesses, breweries have been forced to make significant cuts to their workforce.
The survey, which was taken from 455 responses of brewers across 49 states, goes on to explain that a total of 65.7 percent of brewery employees have been either laid off or furloughed, with 80.1 percent of those who were dropped being part-time help. Beer producers are doing anything to cut corners and limit the decline and while all of these numbers continue to dip, there is one bright spot: off-premise packaged beer distribution is up 9.4 percent. This comes as shoppers flock to grocery stores and other essential retail outlets continue to stock up on beer each and every visit.
Of course, the United States government has implemented ways to help businesses such as smaller craft breweries, thanks to forgivable loans, emergency grants, disaster loans, delayed payroll tax payments and facility write off provisions but those efforts can really only help as temporary solutions. The worst part for hospitality-focused businesses, like others, is there’s no concrete end in sight, as these shelter-in-place orders could be extended on a case-by-case basis, though May 1 seems to be the target for many, especially the northeast, which has been hit the hardest by COVID-19. At this point, there’s plenty of speculation but no guarantees.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to shop local and, if you have the means, to help out local businesses that you frequented before this pandemic. Shop local, drink local. If a brewery produces a year-round beer or an annual limited release you enjoy, support that beer producer because if you don’t, there’s no telling how long they’ll be able to weather the storm if this continues.