COVID-19 Roundup: Germany Cancels 2020 Oktoberfest; California Beer Summit Cancelled; Monday Night Begins Rehiring

Germany Calls Off Oktoberfest

German officials today cancelled the country’s famed Oktoberfest celebration due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It hurts. It’s such a pity,” Bavarian Minister President Markus Söder said during a press conference. “We have agreed that the risk is simply too high.”

The festival, originally slated for September 19 through October 4, usually draws 6 million people to Munich. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that all large events be cancelled through August 31; however, officials said Oktoberfest, or the Wiesn in local parlance, is too large of an undertaking to adjust or postpone.

“The Wiesn is a total work of art that you either do completely or not at all, and this work of art cannot be moved backwards or made in a smaller form,” event manager Clemens Baumgärtner said.

Oktoberfest, which dates back to 1810, generates more than 1 billion euros for the city of Munich and draws 2 million travelers to the city from other countries, according to Reuters.

California Beer Summit Cancelled

The California Craft Brewers Association — a nonprofit trade group that represents the interests of the state’s craft brewers — announced today the cancellation of its “Craft Beer Summit,” which was scheduled for September 9-12 in Long Beach.

“We are truly thankful that so many of you planned to travel to Long Beach and join your industry and community at this event,” Leia Bailey, CCBA associate executive director, wrote in an email to partners and participants. “As we assess the coming year, we look forward to bringing the tribe of craft brewers back together under safer circumstances. In the meantime, we continue to be here to help your business find the right resources, connect with the brewing industry and support each other during this unprecedented time.”

California is home to the most breweries in operation in the U.S., with 1,040 craft breweries in operation in 2019. In 2018, the state’s craft breweries supported 61,335 jobs and generated more than $9 billion in economic impact.

Atlanta-Based Monday Night Brewing Begins Rehiring Furloughed Staff

Atlanta’s Monday Night Brewing shared last week that it had begun rehiring some of its furloughed employees.

“Because of your willingness to purchase directly from our small brewery and generous contributions, we will actually be able to bring some of our furloughed staff back onto payroll,” the company wrote on Instagram.

Four furloughed employees were brought back and other employees whose hours were cut have received additional work. Monday Night will continue donating 25% of to-go sales and 100% of donations to its staff fund.

“Your willingness to step up to the plate for the survival of our brewery and our team has been an incredibly life-giving and humbling experience for us,” the company wrote.

Watch Monday Night co-founder Jeff Heck discuss some of the hard decisions the company has made in recent months due to the novel coronavirus with Brewbound editor Justin Kendall here.

Brewers Association, Beer Institute Call for Day of Action

The Brewers Association (BA) and Beer Institute (BI) are asking members and drinkers to contact their congresspeople on Wednesday, April 22, to request assistance for breweries that are struggling due to mandatory shutdowns of taprooms, tasting rooms, bars and restaurants in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Though we are a flexible and innovative industry, it is apparent that many breweries will be forced to close if things continue the way they are,” BA president and CEO Bob Pease wrote in an email to members. “We need Congress to take action and provide breweries and other small businesses with the tools they need to survive.”

The BA, BI and other alcoholic beverage trade groups are asking Congress for the following:

  • “Authorize the Department of the Treasury to create a Workforce Stabilization Fund for the hospitality and travel sectors that will allow breweries to keep workers employed, maintain operations, and meet financial obligations.
  • Suspend all federal excise tax obligations on domestic and imported alcohol products, effective January 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.
  • Enact a permanent extension of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (H.R. 1175/S. 362).
  • Approve additional funding to support the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans. In addition, adjust the cap on small business loans from 250% of monthly payroll costs to 400% of monthly operating costs to give businesses the necessary flexibility they need.
  • Create temporary tax incentives that encourage consumers to return to on-premise dining and drinking establishments when public health officials determine it’s safe.
  • Encourage the Administration to work with our trading partners to simultaneously suspend tariffs that impact alcohol producers and our supply chain partners.”

In addition, the BA, BI and National Beer Wholesalers Association are collaborating on a request for a tax credit for beer that can’t be sold, which doesn’t apply to the other trade groups and isn’t included in the letter. The credit would apply to all federal taxes and “would provide immediate and badly needed liquidity to breweries,” Pease wrote in his letter.

March Domestic Tax Paid Shipments Decline Slightly

U.S. brewers shipped 14.3 million barrels in March 2020, a decline of 0.5% compared to March 2019, according to national trade group the Beer Institute, which shared unofficial estimates of domestic tax paid shipments tallied by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

Shipments have declined in each of the first three months of 2020, with declines in January (-0.1%) and February (-0.7%).

Year-to-date, domestic brewers have shipped an estimated 38,073,000 barrels of product, a decline of 0.42%, or 161,513 barrels, from the same three-month period in 2019.

Minnesota Allows Restaurants to Sell Beer and Wine To Go

Minnesota Gov. Tim⁣ Walz signed legislation last week that permits the sale of beer and wine to-go from restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Associated Press.

“This is a small but important step to provide relief for the local restaurants that are struggling to keep their lights on during this pandemic,” Walz said.

Restaurants and bars are now allowed to sell a bottle of wine or six-pack of beer with food orders.

Austin, Texas-Based North By Northwest Brewing Shutters

Austin, Texas-based brewpub North By Northwest has permanently closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Craft Beer Austin.

“After grueling hours of thought and consideration, given the unpredictable and unknowable continuing circumstances of COVID, we made the difficult choice to turn off the taps at North by Northwest,” founder Davis Tucker told the outlet.

The brewpub opened in 1999 and sold 1,501 barrels in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available from national trade group the Brewers Association.

North By Northwest will auction off its brewing equipment on Wednesday, April 22, according to a Facebook post.

Argus Brewery Closes in Chicago

Argus Brewery, a 10-year-old craft brewery in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago, has shuttered for good, according to Chicago Patch.

Co-founders and father-and-son team Bob and Patrick Jensen told the outlet that the brewery had already been facing economic troubles before the COVID-19 pandemic forced breweries, bars and restaurants to close for on-premise service.

The brewery gained special attention in 2015 when it fulfilled an order for former Chicago resident, President Barack Obama, who was in the area to dedicate a national monument in the brewery’s neighborhood.

Argus occupies Schlitz’s former distribution stables. Bob Jensen told Patch he hopes to sell the building and brewing equipment together.

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