Save LA Brewers! An Update on the State of #LABEER

9/29/2020 - UPDATE
GREAT NEWS! We have more to update you on very soon, but please see below for an official press release from the office of Supervisor Janice Hahn.

Supervisors Allow Breweries and Wineries to Re-Open for Outdoor Service 

Los Angeles, CA– Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Kathryn Barger which will allow breweries and wineries to begin outdoor service in one week, in accordance with current State health orders. 

“I think it is time that we allow our breweries and wineries to resume outdoor service consistent with the State orders,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “We have made progress slowing the spread of this virus and we did not see the spike in cases after Labor Day that I know many of us had been dreading.  The action we are taking today puts us in line with the State’s health orders.”

The State of California has allowed breweries and wineries to reopen for outdoor service if they partner with a third-party permitted food vendor. However, the County of Los Angeles has not permitted breweries and wineries that do not have restaurant licenses to resume service.  While several breweries and wineries do have restaurant licenses and small kitchens, many do not and have been struggling to survive.  

“This is an important step forward for businesses and employees throughout the County,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who co-authored the motion.  “As our case numbers have decreased, I have championed for breweries and wineries to reopen safely with necessary health protocols and guidance in place. I am pleased to have the opportunity to collaborate to seek solutions that will help support our communities.”

Supervisor Hahn’s motion, which was read-in during today’s Board meeting, allows breweries and wineries to re-open in alignment with the State’s health order in one week.  The reopening shall abide by strict safety guidelines, including but not limited to: outside operations, limited hours of operation, required reservations, appropriate social distancing, and all appropriate safety measures. The motion passed with a vote of 3-2. 

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Expand the tab below to read past updates: 

9/25 UPDATE

A lot has been happening in the last 10 days since we’ve updated this post. The mission to reopen our tasting rooms under state guidelines continues and while we have made some progress and gotten some additional support, there is still more work to do! Many of you may have seen the news that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors had unanimously approved a proposal from Supervisor Hahn to bring some financial relief to breweries and other industries affected by stricter county closures. While the intention and sentiment behind this $10Million grant is appreciated, some news outlets made it a point to highlight that this grant could save the craft brewing industry. We’re telling you now, that it’s not enough and it won’t save our businesses — especially when grants awarded are of a much smaller denomination and spread across hundreds of other struggling businesses outside of breweries.  There are many other businesses who also need saving; many businesses who are not in the position that we are in. Reopening our tasting rooms puts us back to work, helps us sustain ourselves, and gives other industries who cannot reopen yet an opportunity for relief.

That said, we have continued to push the BOS to hear our pleas and work with us. The bits of verbal support we have received feel empty unless real progress and consideration of policies are made. As of this week, we have formally registered our organization’s first lobbying firm to assist us in our efforts to get in front of the right people who can help save L.A. breweries. We have retained the services of Veronica Perez & Associates (VPA), an experienced local firm whom we had the pleasure of meeting after an introduction from a local ally.  We are hoping that with VPA’s help, our Guild will be able to get to the finish line and keep small businesses from being another casualty of this pandemic.

Together, our organization continues to maintain a unified stance in asking that the L.A. County BOS reclassify our breweries to allow  us third-party food vendors for outdoor dining, as is allowed by every other county in California. This Tuesday, BOS has another meeting with room for discussing the Public Health Order. Once again, we kindly ask for our supporters to please consider sending in a written comment or calling into the meeting.

The agenda item numbers for Tuesday, September 29th are: S-1 and Public Comment

How call in and tune into the meeting: 

 

With every major event canceled this year, our Guild (who relies heavily on our event revenue and event sponsorships) needed to rally our group for support. This last week, our Guild has also built an internal Advocacy Fund in order to raise the funds for our lobbying team and keep our organization alive.  We have had folks outside of our Guild ask us how they can make donations to help keep us going.  If you’d like to make a contribution to our Guild, we encourage you to purchase an Enthusiast Membership or donate funds via our Beer-It-Forward program. NOTE: A newsletter is going out to all 2020 Enthusiast members explaining that due to the extended lockdown, all 2020 memberships will run until Jan. 2022 so that you get at least, 1 full calendar year of use. If we reopen soon, you can use those memberships soon. Cross those fingers for us!

 

 

 

9/14 UPDATE

Our brewery tasting rooms have been closed for over 77 days now and we are still trying to work with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Health Department on how we can reopen safely for outdoor dining. Our ask remains the same: please let us use third-party food vendors so that we can provide meal service under the state health order’s allowances. We have spent the last 3+ weeks on this #SaveLABrewers campaign and have built a coalition of support spanning over 35 local chambers of commerce, city councils, and state and federal legislators. Dozens of calls, emails, and social media posts have been sent. But we still have more work to do. Today we have two requests for our supporters. Both requests consist of time-sensitive action items details below:

CALL IN OR WRITE A PUBLIC COMMENT at L.A. COUNTY BOS MEETING – Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 9AM! The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will be hearing a proposal from Supervisor Janice Hahn that would create a significant $10Mil grant that could help keep our breweries and other industries in business. We need our supporters to call in or submit written comments supporting this proposal and stressing the importance of saving L.A. breweries! Below is the agenda and information to join the live virtual meeting. http://bos.lacounty.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=uQoXN_ATzfA%3d&portalid=1 OR –

SUBMIT WRITTEN PUBLIC COMMENT at L.A CITY COUNCIL MEETING – Tuesday, Sept. 15th at 10AM! Councilmember Joe Buscaino and Mitch O’Farrell will introduce a motion that would support LABG efforts. If approved, the Los Angeles City Council will submit a formal request to the BOS to reconsider our situation. Agenda is here: https://ens.lacity.org/clk/councilagendas/clkcouncilagendas3143576_09152020.html Submit written public comment here:

 

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.

 

Photo from the 2019 Unity brew day at Claremont Craft Ales.  Photo by Nick Gingold.

 

 

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