US craft brewers lobby government for support during lockdown

The trade body that represents craft brewers in North America has called for more US government support for the sector, which has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Bob Pease, chief executive of the Brewers Association, met with Eugene Scalia to discuss the impact of the crisis on small and independent breweries on 7 May. Pease wants more assistance for the sector from the federal government during these difficult times.

The once-thriving craft brewing industry in the US has been badly impacted by the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, which has closed taprooms and brewpubs.

At the end of 2019, the Brewers Association estimated that there were more than 8,300 small and independent breweries in the US, directly employing more than 160,000 and accounting for a 13.6 per cent share of domestic beer sales.

Craft breweries are increasingly switching from kegs to canned beer for online direct-to-consumer delivery and pick-up or off-premise sale, as pubs have closed. However, this requires investment and time unavailable to many smaller businesses.

Pease shared with Scalia a recent survey among its members, which found that more than half of respondents feared they would be required to close permanently if the current situation continued for three more months, unless there was more help from the Federal Government.

The Brewers Association and the Department of Labor have worked together on many issues in the past, including the alliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which shares information among OSHA personnel and safety and health professionals regarding industry best practices.

On this occasion, Pease explained to Scalia about the Brewers Association’s efforts to help ensure that breweries, their employees, and customers remain safe and healthy by creating the Covid-19 Resource Center and a checklist for reopening breweries, including matters such as social distancing, standard operating procedures and best practices.

However, he called for additional guidance from the government, as well as financial support to meet new health and safety requirements to help breweries to reopen but stressed the importance of the government not creating any undue burdens on small breweries.

Since the pandemic hit, almost overnight the industry had seen major changes impacting the ways that it does business. While it had adapted, Pease explained to Scalia the areas where breweries needed the most help.

Before coronavirus, eight states in the US allowed the direct shipment of beer and wine: Delaware, Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Virginia, with the remainder only allowing direct wine shipments.

“We don’t agree with that, because you know, we’ve seen how the wine industry has been able to do that for over 20 years, and they’ve achieved near universal direct-to-consumer shipping rights around the country,” Pease told Fox News, following the meeting with Scalia. “If you want to keep these breweries in business, we need to find ways to get the beer to the beer drinker.”

He added that companies like Wild Goose Filling, which supplies small canning lines ideal for craft brewers, had seen a rise in sales as brewpubs and taprooms attempted to move away from draft beer in kegs to cans.

The Brewers Association has also been actively advocating with the Treasury Department, Small Business Administration, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau on a variety of items that will help small and independent breweries, such as changes and additional guidance regarding the Payroll Protection Program; a delay of federal excise taxes through the end of the year; and help on excise taxes on out-of-code beer.