Please read below for an update on the state of L.A. County Brewers Guild breweries and how you can help us with our cause.
As of today, August 24, it’s been 163 days since our brewery tasting rooms were “normal.” The severity of the COVID-19 crisis was a shock to the entire world and has had an impact on the economy and our way of life that we never could have imagined. Small businesses are struggling to survive, millions are without jobs, and we’re still fighting the small battles daily to push for people to respect social distancing and wear masks in public in order to reduce transmission. The Los Angeles County Brewers Guild and it’s 93 brewery members have done everything in our power to comply with every change in local and state health orders for these past 5+ months. We’ve had to make a hard pivot in our industry to amp up to-go sales, implement shipping, and delivery. We’ve had to lay off employees, apply for loans we don’t know whether we can pay back, and have had to bring our operations into the leanest we can possibly make it to stay in business. Even our Guild, the nonprofit that exists to support our industry has suffered during this time and has had to run on lean resources from having to cancel every annual fundraiser and partnership on our calendar. It’s been a rough year — for everyone. We understand that this hasn’t been easy for anyone.
That said, we’re disheartened that our Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has put stricter measures in place that prevents our business from being able to operate in the same exact way as breweries in the other 57 counties in California. We understood the necessity of rolling back the phase 3 re-openings due to a spike in cases, but instead of aligning with the State order (which essentially rolled our industry back to phase 2 conditions), the updated health order released in June explicitly removed our ability to operate outdoors by partnering with a third-party food vendor. If you have ever spent any time at a craft brewery that didn’t have it’s own restaurant, you’ve likely seen a food truck or two parked right in front. The brewery and food truck relationship goes deep and when we were given the opportunity to reopen so long as we served food, we didn’t have to panic about how to go about that. We knew who to call and we were eager to welcome our local food vendors back into our businesses. Our breweries have also been home-base for many non-truck food vendors; our neighboring restaurants and licensed pop-ups who don’t yet have their own brick-and-mortar locations. Simply put, our industry has done the work to ensure that we are providing a safe, sanitized, socially-distant dining experience for our guests and we’re now left wondering when we’ll be able to do so again.
Today we launched a week-long campaign to reach out to our L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Our Guild had sent out letters advocating for our industry and that message was echoed by allies at the California Craft Brewers Association and over 30 organizations consisting of chambers of commerce, municipalities, and other small businesses associations on top of countless efforts from our many brewery members. Our outreach was met with radio silence from the BOS and responses in the vein of sorry, we can’t help you with this from the Health Department. We’ve decided to take to social media to remind the BOS of our story and our struggle. If those who follow us and our brewery members feel compelled to share and speak up on our behalf, we welcome any support you can give.
At this point, we’re all hanging on by a thread…and we’re doing so in the dark. The L.A beer industry is all about collaboration and community. What we are asking of the BOS is to be considered in the same way our colleagues all across the state are. We are asking them to collaborate with us on ways we can operate, stay in business, and keep our communities safe. Reservations? Sure. Keeping folks seated at tables and not mingling with other groups? Of course. Requiring masks when not seated? You got it. Contact tracing? Happy to do it. Anyone familiar with our breweries can attest to our dedication to cleanliness and considering that social distancing has been our way of life this entire pandemic, we’re also willing to go above and beyond with those measures too. Back in late May, the California Alcoholic Beverage Control sent out another life-preserver; the ability for us to apply for expanded premise permits to accommodate guests safely outside of our brewery footprint, but the June shutdown eviscerated our plans to utilize this.
In case you were wondering what the timeline for all of these events are, here’s a rundown:
- March 14 – All bars, breweries, and wineries were to close for on-site consumption immediately. As federally recognized beverage manufacturers, breweries were allowed to continue to-go and delivery operations ONLY.
- June 1 – After nearly 80 days of closed tasting rooms, Los Angeles County finally allowed us to reopen in Phase 2 with specific conditions that we would need to partner with a food vendor to provide meals as a prerequisite for purchasing beer for on-site consumption. *Note – most of California was reopened for phase two in mid-to-late May.
- June 19 – After only 18 days of “Phase 2 Service,” L.A. County reopened bars and other businesses. This Phase 3 reopening also made it so that breweries were no longer required to serve meals with beer purchases.
- Our “Phase 3” lasted 10 days.
- June 29 – With zero advanced notice, the county rolled back our operations – once again closing all our tasting rooms. Furthermore, the county also included specific language in the updated health order that explicitly prohibited us from partnering with third-party food vendors to provide meals.
- It’s been 56 days and counting now and we have no timelines, guidelines, or relief in sight.
How many brewery businesses does this affect?
A little more than two-thirds of our membership (roughly 70) are at a severe disadvantage currently. Although the limited caps on outdoor dining won’t guarantee our businesses will survive, it allows us to have a fighting chance. It also allows us to help the amazing food vendors we love who have also seen drastic declines in their business as summer events have been canceled. While we know we are a small number in the grand scheme of things, the average brewery has so much more to lose. As manufacturers with costly industrial equipment and infrastructure, the loss of a brewery is very significant – and unlike a normal retail space, it’s not as easy to liquidate and turnaround our properties. Just moving out of a space could cost thousands of dollars!
You’ll notice that many of our brewpub members (breweries with restaurants attached) who are currently allowed to be open outdoors are also supporting this campaign. This solidarity is deeply rooted in the fact that our craft beer community is something we truly value and support.
How are you keeping people safe?
Breweries may have an industrial exterior, but we’ve got a pristine interior. Sanitation and cleanliness are pillars of our operation and any brewer will make the joke that they’re glorified janitors who happen to also make some beer. That said, our industry has been diligent about following CDC and Health Department guidelines during the pandemic. We are unanimous advocates of Wear (a mask), wait (6 ft. away from others), and wash (ing your hands often). All of our businesses have developed robust (seriously epic) internal operating procedures with clear and intentional protocol for both guests and staff to abide by. We truly believe that our partnership with food vendors operating in an outdoor space is just as safe as any other outdoor restaurant situation that’s allowed to currently be open. In many instances, we’ve even got more space!
Do you want to help? We’re not asking for money, we’re asking for your voice.
Feeling sympathetic to our cause? If you’re able to send an email, post a tweet, or re-share an instagram post — any means to amplify our message is much appreciated!
Here are email contacts for our L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Just click on each link to send a pre-written message in support of L.A. Brewers and feel free to add your own personal thoughts!
Social media more your speed?
Hilda Solis: @HildaSolis
Mark Ridley-Thomas: @mrridleythomas
Sheila Keuhl: @sheilakeuhl
Janice Hahn: @SupJaniceHahn
Karthyn Barger: @supervisorkathrynbarger (IG) & @kathrynbarger (Twitter)
On behalf of our over 90 small and independently-owned breweries, we thank you for your support and kindness during this challenging time. We hope you are all staying safe, sane, and healthy and that we can see you (from a distance) soon.