LA County Could Be Saying Goodbye to Craft Beer Breweries

Posted: Sep 12, 2020 5:55 PM
LA County Could Be Saying Goodbye to Craft Beer Breweries

Source: AP Photo/John Raoux

Los Angeles County's Wuhan coronavirus guidelines are stricter than the state's. As a result, roughly 70 craft beer breweries throughout the county are struggling to stay in business. With the new guidelines in place, breweries are being classified as "bars," not as restaurants like they originally were. Because of this distinction, breweries must remain closed. 

The "Save LA Brewers" campaign outlined the timeline of events that got us to this point in time:

  • 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. 

A popular business model in the craft beer industry is for breweries to partner with food trucks. This allows brewers to focus on their craft and chefs to supply the food. It tends to be a win-win situation for both parties. It also allows the brewery to rotate between various food trucks and caterers, especially if they have a theme for the night or a special. 

According to brewery owners in LA County, this coronavirus change has driven people in LA County to drive to nearby Orange, Ventura, Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties to consume beer.

"LA County is the only County in the State of California right now with more strict mandates than what Newsom, at the state level, has imposed on bars, breweries, wineries, whatnot. And so what that means for us is that even if we were to team up with a food truck or a third party food vendor as we did back in May, we cannot be open for on premise sales," Brian Avery, the owner of Bravery Brewing in Lancaster, told the Daily Caller. "We cannot use our outdoor space, our patios, and that's particularly devastating for a business model such as craft brewery like my own because we have millions of dollars in infrastructure and we have gigantic bills and gigantic loans and really highly trained personnel to make the beer. That's all predicated on being able to sell beer at a high profit margin by the glass, which we can't do right now."

The LA County Brewers Guild has pleaded with county supervisors to hear them out, but to no avail.

How many businesses need to go under before elected officials realize their lockdowns are having negative consequences? 10? 100? 1,000? What number are they okay with? These people have been closed for months on end. People can't come to their place of business because they don't serve food, but they can't serve food with a third party company. How asinine is that? What suddenly made it more dangerous to just drink at an establishment than to eat and drink at an establishment? And why was it okay for these breweries to open for a short period of time before but not now?

At least if these elected officials are going to act like they're making the best decisions for their people they should be consistent about it. Either bars, breweries and restaurants are safe to patrons or they're not. Singling out one type of business over another is discriminatory. And brewers aren't the only ones suffering. So are their employees and even the third-party food vendors they rely on. 

This is another example of government overreach.