Fremont Brewing Closes Seattle Beer Garden After Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

Seattle, Washington-based Fremont Brewing has temporarily shuttered its brewery and beer garden after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, June 16.

“Out of an abundance of caution and care for our community and employees, we are closing the Urban Beer Garden and our production brewery immediately, as one asymptomatic employee tested positive for COVID-19 today, June 16th,” Fremont wrote on its website. “All Fremont employees will be required to get tested and be negative for COVID-19 before returning to work.”

In an email, Fremont co-founder and owner Matt Lincecum told Brewbound that the company is waiting for medical advice after employees’ test results come back to decide when to reopen.

“We are not willing to predict our ability to reopen until we have our staff tested and have the results back and clear medical recommendations on the steps forward,” he wrote. “Our actions will be guided by transparency, clear communication and caution.”

The infected employee last worked at the beer garden on Tuesday, June 9, and adhered to the company’s guidelines during that shift: passing a temperature check, wearing a mask and gloves, and maintaining social distance.

“While it is impossible to know when our employee contracted COVID-19, out of an abundance of caution for our community and employees, we are taking immediate action and closing both the Urban Beer Garden and our production facility to allow for immediate testing of all Fremont Brewing employees and for a full sanitation of all Fremont Brewing facilities,” Fremont wrote.

Fremont will implement an enhanced sanitation program starting Thursday, June 18, that goes above and beyond the company’s existing cleaning routine, Lincecum said.

Sara Nelson, Lincecum’s wife and Fremont’s co-founder and owner, told Brewbound that the craft brewery avoided taproom staff layoffs by “redeploying them to continuous sanitizing of our facilities.”

Overall, consumer response to Fremont’s decision to close has been “overwhelmingly positive and supportive,” Lincecum said.

“We all want the same thing during this time; transparency, clear communication and caution,” he wrote. “Our Urban Beer Garden is a safe space with the strictest social distancing and sanitation protocols in place. However, we’re going to be living with this virus for a while, and we all need to learn how to respond to these situations.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the months-long closures of on-premise establishments nationwide, creating uncertainty for bar, restaurant and taproom operators. All 50 states have now allowed bars and restaurants to reopen for on-premise dining to varying degrees, but consumers’ willingness to return is mixed. Nielsen CGA, the market research firm’s on-premise arm, found that younger consumers (ages 21-35) returned to dining and drinking out at twice the rate of older consumers (age 55 and older).

With so much still unknown, two breweries in the Brewers Association’s top 50 by volume shuttered their taprooms indefinitely: Munster, Indiana-based Three Floyds Brewing and Frederick, Maryland-based Flying Dog Brewery. Three Floyds cited employees’ health and safety as the impetus behind its decision to close its taproom. Flying Dog encouraged consumers to patronize local bars and restaurants as they reopened, rather than the brewery’s taproom.

Cincinnati, Ohio-based Christian Moerlein Brewing announced it had indefinitely shuttered its taproom on Monday, June 15.

“We look forward to reopening our space when the environment is more appropriate for large gatherings and events,” the company wrote on Facebook.

CEO Jay Woffington told the Cincinnati Business Courier that consumers weren’t ready to return for on-premise drinking when the taproom reopened last month; sales had declined 90%.

Ohio allowed establishments to reopen for outdoor service on May 15 and indoor service on May 21. Christian Moerlein reopened on May 21 with social distancing protocols and enhanced sanitation. However, the taproom has lost its usual clientele of guests in town for conventions and events due to state guidelines, Woffington said.

Christian Moerlein Brewing has also delayed the launch of new offerings from its Little Kings brand until 2021 due to the pandemic.

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