Minneapolis Craft Breweries React to the Death of George Floyd

Some Minneapolis craft breweries are lending their support to those protesting the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, who is black, died Monday while handcuffed as now former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck as he was being held on the ground. Chauvin and three other police officers who were recorded detaining Floyd, who can be heard repeatedly saying he could not breath, have since been fired.

On Friday, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

“Our community needs justice for George Floyd, and we need it now,” Minneapolis-based Modist Brewing wrote Thursday on its social media platforms. “We are going to donate all of our proceeds from the time George Floyd was murdered, through the end of the month, directly to George Floyd’s family and the causes listed below. If there’s a ‘throw those cops in jail’ fund, we’ll contribute to that too.”

Protests began on Tuesday, May 26, and have continued every night since, leaving several businesses and a police station in the city’s third precinct burnt down. On Thursday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz activated the National Guard at the request of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

The owners of Minneapolis’ Indeed Brewing on Thursday issued an open letter to the Minneapolis Police Department asking to end a requirement for event hosts to pay to have off-duty police officers onsite.

“The recent events have made it clear that the presence of Minneapolis police officers does not make all people feel welcome, safe, or secure and because of this we no longer feel it is in the best interest of our community or our brewery to employ off-duty Minneapolis police officers at our special events,” co-owners Nathan Berndt and Tom Whisenand wrote.

Indeed typically hosts two multi-day events at its brewery each year. Whisenand said the company has spent between $1,000 and $1,200 each day for the required police presence.

Whisenand said police officers’ presence at Indeed’s events has “never been a negative experience,” but he added that the brewery needs to consider how it affects its customers.

“We’re not saying no to having any police officers at the brewery, but we just recognize that the reputation of the police officers — the way that they will make many people feel, especially people who are oftentimes maybe marginalized in craft beer, or not people who feel super welcomed into the craft beer world because of the way craft beer can be — we can’t have people show up to these parties or walk up to Indeed and there be a person in the Minneapolis police officer uniform standing there,” he said.

When Indeed can host events again after the on-premise shutdown forced by COVID-19 ends, Whisenand said the company will hire off-duty officers from other cities’ departments.

The decision to pen the letter was supported by Indeed’s staff, Whisenand said.

“Everybody at the brewery, including all of our staff, you could just tell were just crushed in so many ways,” he said. “So, we knew we wanted to do something, because we just couldn’t ignore this.

“For us, it’s not a political issue. It’s not an issue about even the police. It’s an issue that we can’t sweep under the rug, because we’re afraid that we might get some blowback for saying anything about it,” he continued.

University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel announced Wednesday the university will no longer hire Minneapolis Police officers during games and other large events. Though the revenue from policing a Big Ten university’s athletic games may dwarf the revenue from two events a year at a craft brewery, Whisenand said the letter was intended to be a message to the department’s leadership.

“We realize that this is probably the most controversial thing we’ve ever stepped into. We acknowledge that, but it’s not meant to be any sort of saying ‘All police are bad’ or anything like that,” he said. “We don’t feel comfortable in the future, when we do have these events, for our customers having been forced to partner with that police department that has, again, from the police chief on down, acknowledged that there are issues inside of the department that lead to incidents like this, and it’s not the first time,” he continued.

Whisenand said he hoped peace would be restored to the city and justice found for Floyd.

“I hope our community is able to heal and move forward,” he said. “I hope that everybody in our community is safe and all my other fellow bars and restaurants and liquor store owners suffer as little damage as possible from this event. I hope that we find justice for Mr. Floyd.”

Modist announced Friday afternoon it was suspending its home delivery service and closing its taproom two hours earlier than normal amid concerns for the safety of staff and customers.

“We will also continue to be a safe place for anyone who needs a safe place during the unrest, we will also function as a first-aid supplies drop off,” the brewery wrote on its blog. “If we’re on our patio, we’re here for you with water, first aid, food, whatever we can do to help our community.”

Surly Brewing, one of Minnesota’s largest craft breweries, has suspended its takeout and delivery food service, as well as delayed the reopening of its beer garden, which had been slated for June 1.

“We’re a Minneapolis brewery. Our employees live here, including the neighborhoods you’re seeing on your television and your social feed right now,” the brewery wrote on Facebook. “Saying ‘It’ll all blow over in a day or two’ rings pretty hollow right now.”

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