Modern Times Furloughs Taproom Staff in LA, San Diego, Encinitas, Santa Barbara

Modern Times has furloughed employees at five of its seven taprooms, the San Diego-headquartered brewery wrote in an email Thursday night.

“With reopening phase rollbacks and payroll protection loans exhausted, we’ve been forced to furlough many of our Los Angeles, San Diego, Encinitas, and Santa Barbara hospitality employees,” Modern Times said. “To say that this is heartbreaking for us doesn’t begin to cover how we’re feeling.”

The affected taprooms include two in San Diego (the Lomaland Fermentorium in the Point Loma section, and the Flavordome in the city’s North Park neighborhood), one in Encinitas (the Far West Lounge), one in Los Angeles (the Dankness Dojo), and one in Santa Barbara (the Academy of Recreational Sciences).

The California Department of Public Health has rolled back reopening phases in 22 counties — including San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties where the affected Modern Times locations are — due to increasing cases of COVID-19. On-premise dining has been shut down, and bars are closed, even if they can offer outdoor seating.

To support furloughed staff, Modern Times has added a tipping feature to its online store with 100% of all tips collected to be split among affected employees.

“If you’re able to and feel like helping out, it would be appreciated beyond measure by those who have been forced to suddenly enter a very uncertain financial landscape,” Modern Times said.

Modern Times posted an update from co-founder and CEO Jacob McKean on Tuesday explaining that due to the shutdown of on-site dining and drinking in Los Angeles county, the company furloughed the staff of its Dankness Dojo. In the post, McKean speculated that furloughs would extend to the company’s San Diego county taprooms with the shutdown of on-premise dining and drinking there. Thursday’s email confirmed those furloughs and revealed the staff of the Santa Barbara location was furloughed too.

“Last week we had to do something we’ve been desperately trying to avoid since March: after L.A. county shut down indoor dining, we had no choice but to furlough most of our staff at the Dankness Dojo,” McKean wrote.

McKean called the situation “personally and professionally agonizing.”

“We have been working tirelessly — literally to the point of total exhaustion and burnout and agony — to avoid having to do any furloughs or layoffs,” he wrote. “We’re immensely proud to have made it this far, but we’re absolutely gutted that we couldn’t hold out forever. This is a terribly painful situation for everyone at MT, but right now, we are only able to pick among bad options.”

Additionally, two employees in non-public-facing roles in San Diego tested positive for COVID-19, so Modern Times performed rapid testing on all San Diego staff and had the employees’ workspace professionally cleaned.

Modern Times was one of at least 15 breweries to receive a Payment Protection Program loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration between $2 million and $5 million. The loan was approved on April 5, just two days after the program launched.

At that time, the rules stipulated that, in order to have their loans fully forgiven, borrowers had eight weeks to spend the money that they received, and they needed to retain or rehire all employees by June 30, among other requirements about how the money could be spent. So, Modern Times would have had to have spent its loan by late May. Changes were made to the PPP in early June that allowed businesses 24 weeks to spend their loans and relaxed the rehiring requirement.

Three A-B Brewers Collective Craft Breweries Temporarily Close Due to COVID-19

Three breweries in Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Brewers Collective, the craft division of the world’s largest beer manufacturer, have temporarily closed their taprooms after employees tested positive for COVID-19.

In Asheville, North Carolina, Wicked Weed Brewing closed its Funkatorium, the brewery’s satellite sour beer and barrel-aging facility, on July 6 after an employee tested positive, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. No other employees or customers were affected, Wicked Weed found through internal contact tracing. The employee’s last shift was July 1, Wicked Weed wrote on its social media.

In Ohio, Platform Beer Company shuttered its taprooms in Cleveland and Columbus on July 5, after an employee who had been at both locations tested positive for COVID-19.

“We unfortunately learned this morning that one of our Cleveland-based employees had tested positive for COVID-19 and had recently worked out of the Cleveland and Columbus taprooms, so we are temporarily closing those locations,” the company wrote on social media. “Out of an abundance of caution due to heightened risk of COVID-19 in the state, we are choosing to temporarily close our Phunkenship [sour beer brewing facility] location as well.”

On July 3, Houston, Texas-based Karbach Brewing announced it was closing its restaurant and patio, following an employee testing positive.

All closures were voluntary, and none of the breweries have reopened, according to their social media pages.

Sierra Nevada to Keep Taprooms Closed, Brewery Tours Paused Until October

Sierra Nevada plans to keep its taprooms, gift shops and brewery tours closed for the foreseeable future.

“We had hoped and planned to reopen this month and couldn’t wait to finally have a beer together,” the company posted on Facebook. “But over these past few weeks, we’ve seen cases of COVID-19 take a turn for the worse nationwide. While we would love to have you all over, it wouldn’t be the right thing to do.”

Sierra Nevada operates breweries in Chico, California, and Fletcher, North Carolina.

Mad Robot Brewing Closes Permanently

Boca Raton, Florida-based Mad Robot Brewing announced it was shutting down on July 6.

“It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce that we are closing our doors for good,” co-founder Allen Speen wrote on the brewery’s Facebook page. “On behalf of the Robot family, I want to thank every person who ever bought a beer from us for their support. Thank you to the homebrewers who would always bring their beers for me and Scott to sample. We were a place where customers became friends, and friends became extended family.”

Mad Robot was founded in June 2018 by Speen and Ryan Sentz, who co-founded Funky Buddha Brewery in 2010 and sold that company to Constellation Brands in 2017. Mad Robot occupied a former Funky Buddha location.

In addition to brewing and serving beer, Mad Robot functioned as an arts and events space, homebrew store and hookah lounge.

“I’m proud that Robot became a hub for creative types. And I’m proud as all hell that we kept it weird and true to ourselves,” Speen wrote. “From burlesque shows and Drag Queen Bingo to extremely rare Belgian beer tastings, the people who put on events in our space were all top notch.”

The last Facebook post on the company’s page before the announcement of its closing was a link to a GoFundMe fundraiser for its staff while the taproom was shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was posted on March 23 and raised $2,080 of its $5,000 goal.

The Brewer’s Table Closes Permanently in Austin

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Jake Maddux to permanently close his acclaimed restaurant and brewery, The Brewer’s Table, in Austin due to COVID-19 forcing the closure of on-premise dining and drinking in Texas, according to Eater.

“I wish I had some positive news but with everything accelerating with the pandemic, I don’t see any way to reopen ever,” he told the outlet. “PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] money was used, but without new money coming in, it’s impossible to make the equation work.”

Maddux plans to transform the space into a new drinking and dining establishment when the current business climate improves.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order in late June shuttering Lone Star State bars for on-site sales for a second time.

Culmination Brewing Founder Announces New Brewery

A new collaborative craft beer venture between Portland, Oregon-based hospitality company Chefstable and the founder of Culmination Brewing opens today in a space formerly occupied by Burnside Brewing and Danish beer brand Mikkeller, according to the New School.

The Craft Beer Collective is a partnership between Culmination founder Tomas Sluiter and chef Doug Miriello, and will feature guest taps from Portland-area breweries and wood-fired pizza. Sluiter expects the new venture to function as an incubator.

Burnside Brewing occupied the location until the company closed in February 2019. Mikkeller teamed up with Chefstable for a pop-up bar in the space during the second half of 2019, which was expected to turn permanent in 2020, according to Eater.

Chefstable, which offers catering services and operates several restaurants in Portland, had entered the craft beer industry by purchasing a majority share of Ross Island Brewing, which it rebranded as Dirty Pretty in 2018. The company eschewed the Dirty Pretty label in 2019 to bring the Ross Island brand back. However, Chefstable has shut down Ross Island’s location and is selling the former brewery’s equipment.

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