Deschutes Lays Off More Than 100 Employees After Closing Pubs and Tasting Rooms due to Coronavirus Pandemic

Deschutes Brewery has laid off “well over 100” employees after temporarily shuttering its pubs and tasting rooms and scaling back on-premise sales through distribution, VP of sales and marketing Neal Stewart confirmed to Brewbound.

Last week, Beer Marketer’s Insights reported that the Bend, Oregon-headquartered craft brewery had cut 20 sales reps.

The closure of bars and restaurants for on-premise service has affected businesses nationwide and put millions of Americans out of work. In the craft beer industry, thousands of jobs have been lost over the last two weeks.

Stewart said Deschutes plans to rehire employees when it reopens its on-premise locations after public officials deem it safe.

“We do have hope that a good portion of those people will come back,” he said.

In Oregon, Deschutes operates a pub and a tasting room in Bend, as well as a pub in Portland and an outpost at Portland International Airport. The company also operates a tasting room in Roanoke, Virginia. The loss of revenue from closing those locations combined with Deschutes’ on-premise distribution sales amounted to a loss of 45% of the company’s revenue.

“The layoffs were commensurate with that immediate decline in business,” Stewart said.

Deschutes opted to close its locations on March 16, well before Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a stay-home order this past Monday. Though breweries, bars and restaurants have the option of selling food and drinks to go, Deschutes chose not to do so, Stewart said.

“We didn’t feel right now that was the responsible thing to do,” he said, adding that the company could add beer-to-go sales in the future.

A post on the company’s Facebook page on March 16 explained that “the health and safety of our patrons and co-owners is paramount.”

“Beginning today, our Pubs, Tasting Rooms, and Public Tours are temporarily closed to do our part to protect our communities,” the post continued. “We have taken many steps to ensure the health and safety of our staff and customers, and now we are taking this additional step.”

Consumers applauded the decision in comments, thanking them for “taking the hard step, but doing what is right for the community,” as one commenter wrote.

On-premise shutdowns have thrown virtually the entire craft beer industry into a tailspin, with 99% of survey respondents telling trade group the Brewers Association last week that their businesses have been impacted by the coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

“We know that other independent craft brewers are going through a similar challenge and our heart goes out to them,” Stewart said.

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