Between 2008 and 2016, the number of breweries “expanded by a factor of six, and the number of brewery workers grew by 120 percent,” according to The Atlantic. The industry has boomed for small business owners who offer unique spins on one of the oldest humanmade beverages in history.
It’s no different in Florida, where, as of April of this year there were over 300 breweries in the state. But at least one-third of those are in jeopardy of closing if they don’t get some kind of help from the state in the next two weeks, according to an open letter from The Florida Brewer’s Guild to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Halsey Beshears, the Secretary of Department of Business & Professional Regulation.
That’s because Beshears ordered places that serve alcohol but not food to suspend on-premises drinking in an effort to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. According to the Florida Brewer’s Guild, they say their internal polling showed that more than 100 craft brewery owners said they could not sustain their businesses without customers for longer than another two weeks.
In the letter, the guild writes that the directive that they cannot be open except to sell package products is crippling the industry. They implore state leaders to help them put together a plan in which they can safely reopen and stave off thousands from losing their livelihoods.
The letter says, “The health of our community is paramount, but it cannot be at the life savings of hundreds of entrepreneurs and the livelihoods of thousands of families and the majority of an entire industry. We will work with your administration in any way, but we MUST find a way to put our people back to work. Please help us put together a plan that safely reopens our industry.”
The Craft Beer Industry Brought $3.6 Billion To Florida in 2019, But Beshears Said They Have No Intention of Reopening Drinking Establishments With COVID-19 Cases So High In the State
While Florida often emphasizes the importance of keeping small business open to bolster the economy and protect owners from financial ruin, the drinking industry — bars, clubs, and breweries — have all been shuttered for the most part in one of the few directives from the state aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.
The Florida Brewers Guild argues that they’re not like the other drinking establishments because breweries “primarily serve our fans between noon and 8 pm — our core is serving families and small gatherings — we are not nightclubs or your typical bar,” the letter said.
On June 26 Beshears ordered all drinking establishments must suspend selling alcohol to people to drink on-site. On July 17, he reiterated that directive is not going to change “due to the continuing increase in positivity” of COVID-19 cases in Florida.
Florida has had nearly 390,000 people test positive for COVID-19 and 5,518 deaths as of July 23.
Many Are Calling the Directive to Close Bars While Restaurants Continue to Serve Alcohol Arbitrary and Unsubstantiated
Florida’s directive for restaurants and bars say that a business licensed to sell alcohol but not food must suspend sales of on-site consumption of said drinks. However, restaurants whose revenue comes from 50% or less in alcohol sales are good to go for selling libations. That means drinkers can go to restaurants to consume alcohol as long as the restaurant follows social distancing guidelines and other mitigations to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Many say that’s not fair and there is no real basis for assuming drinkeries are the reason for the spread of coronavirus, especially because they’ve been closed for nearly a month and new cases have not abated during that time.
While bars and breweries are allowed to sell package, or to-go beverages, in many cases, the Florida Brewer’s Guild says that only accounts for 10% of brewers’ revenue and is not sustainable as their only means of income at their business. Especially when people have options for places they can go drink on-premises.
Other frustrations comes from how some consider the directive arbitrary since gyms, theme parks, strip clubs, and other places where people congregate are open.
Charles Frizzell, the owner of Broken Strings Brewery in Paramore, Florida told Bay News 9, “You can’t just single out one small industry and allow everyone else to open and operate. It’s just – I’m having trouble coming up with the right words for it – it’s just frustrating.” Frizzell said.