In a matter of days, Austin, Texas’ Jester King Brewery had lost two-thirds of its revenue, which dried up as the company preemptively closed its tasting room on March 16 — a week before Travis County issued a stay-at-home order on March 24 through April 13 — due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19.
Jester King, a destination brewery located on a 165 acre ranch in Texas’ Hill Country, attracts thousands of visitors each weekend in a festival-like atmosphere as described by founder Jeffrey Stuffings. But Jester King’s business, which, similar to so many small craft breweries, was built on on-site sales to consumers looking for an experience at the brewery’s tasting room. Once those were temporarily banned, the brewery was forced into a “survival mode business plan.”
“It’s been dramatic,” Stuffings told Brewbound editor Justin Kendall. “We’ve had cooks, dishwashers, servers, bartenders who we’ve had to let go, and we hope to rehire, as much as possible, once we’re able to return to normal, but it’s hard to know when that’s truly going to be.”
The uncertainty is tied to a lack of a vaccine for COVID-19, which could lead to another 12 to 18 months of Jester King limping along in a “hollowed out” state, Stuffings said.
Although “huge swaths” of Jester King’s business is gone, the company is making moves to adapt and keep cash coming in, including instituting to-go sales seven days a week, the removal of bottle limits, pre-releases and cellar releases of beer and more. Stuffings discusses those efforts, as well as the types of relief small breweries like Jester King need in the video above.
Look for additional videos on how the beer industry is adapting to the novel coronavirus, and click here to register for the first Brew Talks event of 2020 on Thursday, April 2, featuring two panel discussions with industry leaders from the major trade groups, as well as Dogfish Head, Denizens Brewing Company, Total Wine and the Winking Lizard Tavern and Taproom, on COVID-19’s impact on the beer business.