Dear Brewing Community,
Right now is a dire time for the world, and the craft brewing industry is no exception. Production schedules have been completely turned upside down or halted altogether. Fermenters that typically bubble with life, now sit empty. Well-crafted beer is being dumped without means of selling it. Valued employees, co-workers, and friends are being laid off as last means, desperate measures to keep businesses afloat. And perhaps the worst part about the spread of the Coronavirus is that no one can reliably say that there is an end in sight.
At the core of craft beer is social gathering. Sure, ‘alone time’ beers are cherished by many of us; while working on outdoor projects, unwinding from work (maybe lessening the blow of work piling up at home), or even having a cold one in the shower. These ‘privacy’ beers often help bring us back to reality.
But with many of us currently under Stay-At-Home Orders, we’re quickly realizing; there is no amount of unaccompanied beers that can replace the benefits that the social aspect of the brewing community offers. How many brewery success stories have started with a ‘light bulb’ moment, upon home brewers sharing bottles of their newest concoction with friends? How many business brainstorming sessions in this industry consist of co-workers talking ideas over a pint? How many long brew days have ended with a tired brewer, slumped over the taproom bar, restoring their energy with ale and conversation?
It’s the lifeblood of our industry, and for many breweries, the reason to exist. And yet, right now, we have extreme limitations on it. A large percentage of industry revenue relies on consistent social activity in taprooms, and we all know these taprooms have largely been closed all around the country.
The emotional toll industry employees and employers face right now is tremendous. Many are questioning whether they made the right decision to enter into this unique industry. We’re here to reassure you: “Yes, you did.”
This is an unprecedented time, and we as an industry must help each other make it through. Brewing has always offered camaraderie, and there is no time in our history, since the inception of the craft beer movement, that this camaraderie has been needed more than right now. Think back to your past brewing, business, or taproom mentors. Hopefully, there was someone who showed you the ropes; taught you the ins and outs of production brewing, helped advance your career, or gave light to your business ideas. Please offer your industry colleagues the hand that you were hopefully once shown. All of us are stronger together, and industry solidarity will help us get through these unimaginable times.
On March 27, 2020, the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) into law. This wide-ranging, economic stimulus is aimed at addressing the hardships experienced by American citizens and businesses due to the spread of COVID-19. Areas of particular interest to craft breweries include the stimulus provided to the Small Business Administration (SBA). Here are the temporary SBA programs breweries have available to them:
Paycheck Protection Program:
This loan “helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.” (SBA). Loans are provided through banks partnering with the SBA, and may only be used for the following:
- Company payrolls
- Mortgage interest
- Interest on debts
*Other than interest on debts, these loans will qualify to be completely forgiven, only if companies retain their staff and 75% of the loan goes to company payrolls.*
Brewbound.com is reporting that some breweries have experienced frustrations with the rollout of PPP, which began on Friday, April 3. That said, it is unsurprising that inevitable hiccups will come with unveiling such an immense, and new program like PPP. As banks learn to adjust to these new lending guidelines, breweries should remain hopeful, and consider whether PPP is right for their brewery.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency (EIDL) Advance:
This loan advance is aimed at addressing “the temporary loss of revenue they (small businesses) are experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.” (SBA). Loan advances are capped at $10k, and will not have to be repaid. Almost every brewery is experiencing revenue loss in some form, and therefore should highly consider applying for this advance.
Express Bridge Loans:
This loan option also addresses the temporary loss of revenue breweries might be experiencing and is capped at $25k. “If a small business has an urgent need for cash while waiting for decision and disbursement on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, they may qualify for an SBA Express Disaster Bridge Loan.” (SBA).
The benefits to this loan are all in the name; Express. Breweries with an existing relationship with an SBA Express lender are eligible to apply for this speedy turnaround option. Breweries should note that this loan “will be repaid in full or in part by proceeds from the EIDL loan”. (SBA).
Breweries currently utilizing SBA loans are encouraged to consider this new program. Breweries may be eligible to have the principal, interest, and fees covered on such loans with this option and may be eligible for automatic loan deferments if currently utilizing an SBA Service Disaster (Home and Business) Loan.
To receive more information regarding these new SBA funding programs please visit their website.
Additional Resources for Breweries
The solidarity the brewing industry has always been known for is already hard at work addressing this pandemic by providing excellent resources to breweries. The Master Brewers Association of the Americas, the Brewers Association, and local brewing guilds are all pumping out content that all breweries should be aware of at this time.
The BA has put together wide-ranging and useful information in their “Coronavirus Resource Center” that can be found here.
Craft Brewers Conference
Despite having to cancel this year’s CBC, the BA is launching “CBC Online”. From April 13 - May 15, anyone and everyone is able to tune in to live stream educational seminars provided by industry experts. Not only is this an amazing opportunity to increase craft brewing knowledge, but it is being offered completely FREE. This generous gesture from the BA, should not be overlooked, and we’d like to thank (in advance) the BA and seminar panelists for devoting their time, energy, and resources to an industry in need. You can access all relevant information on seminar panelists, schedule information, etc. here.
Master Brewers Association of the Americas
Many brewers are currently experiencing increased ‘downtime’, and those with MBAA memberships may be able to make use of available webinars, Technical Quarterlies, various publications, etc. during this pandemic. Please find more information here.
Lastly, in this ever-evolving industry, there is arguably no better time to stay up to date with relevant news. For increased coverage on legislature relevant to brewing, or how COVID-19 may affect your brewery stay tuned in to Brewbound’s homepage.
During this time that brewery operations are anything but ‘business as normal’, we are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any additional concerns, questions, comments, etc. We are beyond anxious for operations to return to normal and look forward to enjoying pints (in person) with industry friends.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and happy brewing.