Last Call: California Rescinds Meal Requirement to Serve Alcoholic Beverages

California Meal Requirement to Serve Alcohol Removed

The California Department of Public Health has rescinded a requirement that alcoholic beverages must be served with a meal, according to an industry advisory issued by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The onerous requirement was placed on California’s on-premise retail establishments — including breweries, brewpubs and taprooms — as they began to offer onsite consumption following the shutdown forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Licensees that have the privilege to allow alcoholic beverages to be consumed on the licensed premises may now fully exercise those privileges in the same manner as they could prior to the COVID-19 crisis, as soon as local public health authorities authorize on-premises service, and subject to the various guidance from state and local health officials, such as social distancing, occupancy limits, personal protective equipment, etc.,” the ABC advisory reads. “This means that the prior restriction that alcoholic beverages be served only in conjunction with bona fide meals has been rescinded.”

The lifting of the restriction applies to breweries, wineries and distilleries “that do not operate bona fide eating places at the premises of production.”

The California Craft Brewers Association, which advocates for the state’s small and independent craft breweries, issued a statement calling the removal of the meal requirement for onsite consumption of beer “a positive step forward for craft breweries.”

“The CCBA has been in regular communication with the office of Governor Newsom and state regulators since the beginning of the stay at home orders in California in mid-March,” Leia Bailey, CCBA associate executive director, wrote. “The CCBA continues to advocate on behalf of its members as reopening continues on a county level across the state.”

Dovetail Asks Chicago Mayor to Allow Breweries to Reopen Without Food Service

Chicago-based Dovetail Brewing is asking Mayor Lori Lightfoot to allow breweries and other bars without food service to reopen for on-premise service.

Under Lightfoot’s current COVID-19 guidance, establishments with bar and food service can reopen for outdoor dining. The return of these other options for consumers has led to a decline in to-go business for craft brewers such as Dovetail.

“The business that we’ve created of packaged goods to-go is going to go away now because of the other options,” Dovetail co-founder Hagen Dost told CBS Chicago.

The loss of taproom sales could prove catastrophic for Dovetail, which estimated that two-thirds of its 2019 revenue came from the company’s taproom.

Illinois Craft Brewers Guild executive director Danielle D’Alessandro told Brewbound that fewer than 20 breweries in Chicago are affected by the food service requirement.

“We have sent a letter to the mayor’s office and have continued efforts to include these small businesses in phase three with outdoor dining,” she wrote in an email to Brewbound.

In the letter, D’Alessandro shared suggestions collected from brewery owners about how their businesses could reopen safely. They included expanded service to outdoor spaces, two-hour time limits for seating, reservations to cap occupancy and partnerships with food trucks to meet the meal requirement.

Other states and cities have put similar guidelines in place to require food to accompany any purchase of alcohol. In Massachusetts, breweries and beer gardens without food service cannot reopen until the state’s Phase Four, which could begin in mid-July at the earliest.

Michigan Senate Passes Bill to Create ‘Social Districts’

The Michigan state Senate passed a bill that would allow bars and restaurants to sell cocktails to go and establish “social districts,” where customers could consume alcoholic beverages beyond the traditional confines of bars’ and restaurants’ licensed areas.

The measure was approved on Wednesday, June 10, and now goes to the state House of Representatives, where MLive said it appears to have bipartisan support.

Social districts would be designated by local governments and the state Liquor Control Commission would issue special licenses for bars and restaurants to operate within them. On-premise establishments would have to serve alcoholic beverages in cups emblazoned with their name or logo on them.

Michigan restaurants reopened this week at 50% capacity.

Brewery Bhavana Co-Owner to Divest Ownership Stake Following Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Amid allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct, Vansana Nolintha, the co-owner of Raleigh, North Carolina-based Brewery Bhavana and its sister restaurant, Bida Manda, said he will vacate his leadership roles and sell his ownership stake in those establishments, according to an email sent to staff members and obtained by WRAL Channel 5.

Allegations of sexual misconduct were raised earlier this week against Nolintha, who owns the brewery and restaurant with his sister, Vanvisa Nolintha, and Patrick Woodson.

In a statement, Vanvisa Nolintha and Woodson said they would hire “an independent third party to investigate allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct” against Vansana Nolintha and other staff members.

“To ensure the integrity of this investigation, we have asked Van Nolintha to step away from his leadership position within both companies,” they wrote. “Our commitment to our employees, guests, and the community is that we will follow the facts wherever they lead, hold the appropriate persons accountable, and take all the actions necessary to restore full confidence in our restaurants, Bida Manda and Brewery Bhavana.”

According to WRAL, 14 current and former staff members shared their experiences and described the culture at Brewery Bhavana and Bida Manda as one in which management turned a blind eye as male and female employees were objectified or sexually harassed and abused.

In addition to Nolintha, Brewery Bhavana beverage director Jordan Hester, who was accused of sexual misconduct, was also “let go” amidst sexual misconduct allegations, WRAL reported.

American Cider Association Commits to Change, Supports Black Lives Matter

Trade group the American Cider Association has issued a statement supporting Black Lives Matter and promising to make actionable changes.

Among those efforts:

  • Sharing a monthly newsletter with antiracism resources for the next 12 months;
  • Participating in anti-bias and diversity training at the board and staff levels within the next six months;
  • Adding seminars and discussions about diversity, equity and inclusions to its annual industry event CiderCon 2021;
  • Committing to not promoting cideries that use racist language or imagery.

The organization also challenged its members to collaborate with black-owned businesses, hire black employees and contractors, provide antiracism and anti-bias training to employees, and take part in black-led educational platforms and forums.

“As a cider community, we must address the history that has led to a food and beverage industry that rewards racist ideals, and we need to learn how to undo those systems,” ACA executive director Michelle McGrath wrote. “It’s not easy work, but together we can move toward an equitable and inclusive cider industry that directly recognizes the contributions of Black individuals and celebrates the racial diversity in this country.”

Read the full statement here.

Stone Brewing Opposes Reuben’s Brews Trademark Application for ‘Stone the Crows’

Stone Brewing has filed a notice of opposition against Seattle, Washington-based Reuben’s Brews application to trademark “Stone the Crows.”

The Escondido, California headquartered craft brewery, the ninth largest by volume in 2019, filed its notice of opposition to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board on June 11, giving Reuben’s Brews until July 21 to respond.

Stone the Crows is a blend of imperial stout and rye barleywine aged in bourbon barrels. Reuben’s Brews filed to trademark the name on February 14. It was published in the USPTO’s Trademark Official Gazette on May 12, after which “any party who believes it will be damaged by the registration of the mark” had 30 days to file a notice of opposition.

Reuben’s Brews wrote on Twitter that Stone’s opposition took them by surprise.

Stone’s copyright infringement lawsuit against MillerCoors, now Molson Coors Beverage Company, is slated to go to trial in October. In that case, Stone alleges that Keystone Light packaging with the word “Stone” featured prominently infringes on the company’s intellectual property.

A spokesperson for Stone declined to comment.

Exile Brewing Company Sued by Flagship Ruthie’s Eponymous Family for Damages

Exile Brewing Company’s Ruthie lager has come under fire, as the family and estate of the beer’s namesake has filed a lawsuit against the Des Moines, Iowa-based craft brewery, according to the Des Moines Register.

The beer is named for Ruthie Bisignano, who owned Ruthie’s Tavern in Des Moines in the 1950s and became famous for pouring beers into glasses balanced on her chest and serving them to customers without using her hands.

In the lawsuit, Bisignano’s estate alleges that Exile never sought permission to use her name or likeness on its packaging and promotional materials. The lawsuit demands that Ruthie’s late husband be paid damages and that Exile obtain written permission from the Bisignano family.

Exile applied to trademark the name in December 2019. Ruthie is the craft brewery’s flagship and is the official craft beer of the Iowa State Fair.

Ruthie Bisignano died in 1993 and was predeceased by her husband in 1985.

Chicago’s Argus Offered for $2.5 Million on Craigslist

Chicago-based Argus Brewery is listed for sale with a $2.5 million price tag, according to a Craigslist post.

The advertisement touts the location — which has historic beer industry roots as the former Joseph E. Schlitz Distribution Stables — as a turnkey operation with the ability to produce as much as 10,000 barrels annually. The 9,700 sq. ft. location is able to house a taproom and kitchen or event space. In addition to the building, the $2.5 million asking price includes “all remaining equipment, furniture, intellectual properties and delivery vehicle.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, Argus ceased operations in late March due to slow sales and the COVID-19 pandemic, and founder Bob Jensen has been attempting to sell the operation since April.

The decade-old Argus fell well short of its 10,000-barrel capacity, producing just 1,280 barrels of beer in 2019, according to data from national trade group the Brewers Association.

Sun King Acquires Stake in Kokomo Brewing

Indianapolis-based Sun King Brewing has acquired a stake in Kokomo Brewing Company, which operated as Tin Man Kokomo, the Kokomo Tribune reported.

Sun King plans to retire the Tin Man name and rebrand the pub as the Sun King Kokomo Small Batch Brewery in July, the outlet reported. Kokomo Brewing owner Amanda Lewton will continue to manage the day-to-day operations of the business, while Sun King will take over the brewing operations and provide administrative and logistics support.

The acquisition marks the end of the Tin Man brand, which was acquired by Neace Ventures, a Louisville-headquartered venture capital and real estate firm, in 2017. However, the firm closed its Evansville Tin Man taproom shortly thereafter.

Sun King already operates locations in downtown Indianapolis, the Broad Ripple neighborhood, Fishers and Carmel.

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