Press Clips: Dr. Fauci Cautions on Reopening Too Quickly; California ABC Warns Licensees Over 3rd Party Alcohol Deliveries to Minors

Dr. Anthony Fauci today cautioned against reopening businesses and other public gathering spaces before states meet guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“What I’ve expressed then and again is my concern that if some areas, cities, states or what have you jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently — my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” Fauci told members of the U.S. Senate Health Committee during a hearing.

Fauci cautioned Senators that he cannot offer economic advice after Sen. Rand Paul (R.-Ky.) said he hoped that those who were wary of a surge in cases as states’ economies reopened would be wrong.

“I’m a scientist, a physician, and a public health official; I give advice according to the best scientific evidence,” Fauci told Paul. “There are a number of other people who come into that and give advice that are more related to the things that you spoke about, the need to get the country back open again economically. I don’t give advice about economic things. I don’t give advice about anything other than public health.”

Just 11 states still have stay-at-home orders that are not lifting soon, according to the New York Times. They include Washington, California, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo set forth metrics that must be met by geographic regions of the state before businesses and other public places can reopen, according to an email from the New York State Brewers Association.

They include:

  • A 14-day decline in hospitalizations or under 15 new hospitalizations (three-day average);
  • A 14-day decline in hospital deaths or fewer than five deaths (three-day average);
  • New hospitalizations — under two per 100,000 residents (three-day rolling average);
  • Share of total hospital beds available is more than 30%;
  • Share of ICU beds available is more than 30%;
  • For every 1,000 residents, 30 must be tested monthly (seven-day average of new tests per day);
  • At least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents.

Three of New York’s regions have met all seven metrics — the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley and the Southern Tier, according to NBC New York. Each region is hundreds of miles from New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S.

Some states, such as Texas, have allowed on-premise dining and drinking to return with restrictions that include capping the number of patrons at 25% capacity (50% in rural counties with few COVID-19 cases) and no more than six diners per table. Tables must be six feet apart and diners will be given disposable menus and single servings of condiments to curb contamination, according to the Texas Tribune.

Of course, without patrons, restaurants will find it difficult to rebound. Just 20% of survey respondents told research firm Datassential they would “absolutely dine in right away,” according to a report by Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson. The rest of the respondents were nearly evenly split between “considering” dining in (39%) and saying there was “no way” they’d eat in a restaurant after restrictions are lifted (41%).

The restaurant industry is one of the hardest hit by the pandemic-induced economic downturn, losing 5.5 million jobs in April, according to the National Restaurant Association.

“Just three months ago, there were more than 12 million people on the payrolls of eating and drinking places across this country, but today more than six million restaurant workers are home without a job – and that number is going to grow,” executive vice president of public affairs Sean Kennedy said in a statement.

Idaho-Based Hardware Brewing Company Defies Executive Order, Risks License

Kendrick, Idaho-based brewpub Hardware Brewing Company is at risk of losing its alcoholic beverage license after reopening in defiance of Gov. Brad Little’s executive order shutting down bars and restaurants, the Lewiston Tribune reported, citing a letter sent to the brewpub by the Idaho State Police.

Although Little’s reopening plan would allow Hardware Brewing to open potentially on May 16 as part of a second wave of business reopenings if the state doesn’t record a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, the brewpub reopened to the public on May 1, including Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin.

Hardware co-owners Morgan, Doug and Christine Lohman discussed reopening on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program Monday night. Christine Lohman explained that Hardware attempted “to survive on takeout” but there wasn’t enough business.

“It is a destination place,” she said. “They do not drive 35 miles or more for me to come out in a hazmat suit and hand them a burger, so we’re starving slowly.”

The conversation spilled over to the brewpub’s Facebook page, where the Hardware account stated: “This virus is totally overblown and is not killing the productive and healthy in our society.”

Morgan Lohman told Ingraham that the family has hired San Francisco-based lawyer Harmeet Dhillon to represent the company. Dhillon specializes in “commercial litigation, employment law, First Amendment rights and election law matters,” according to her firm’s website.

California ABC Investigation Finds Delivery Apps Allowing Minors to Order Alcohol

An investigation by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) found that third-party delivery services are “routinely delivering alcoholic beverages to minors,” according to an industry advisory posted by the regulatory agency and reported on by the the Washington Post and The Verge.

“Most concerning is that minors are routinely able to purchase alcohol through delivery from restaurants,” the ABC wrote. “There have been instances in which the licensee’s own employees have done so, but a far greater rate has been evident among third-party delivery services. Licensees are responsible for these unlawful deliveries, and the Department encourages licensees to review the practices of these services and their reliance on them.”

The ABC added that it has found that employees of third-party delivery services are “largely” ignoring guidelines setup to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors.

In the advistory, the ABC reminded licensees that they are ultimately responsible for the delivery of alcoholic beverages away from their premises, even if those deliveries are made on their behalf by third-party services, and are “subject to arrest and criminal prosecution.”

“This is so no matter what assurances the delivery service may have provided to the licensee,” the ABC stated.

ABC director Jacob Appelsmith told the Washington Post that the regulatory agency’s investigation included ordering about 200 alcoholic beverages over several weekends from bars and restaurants. The ABC found that a quarter of bars and restaurants delivered to the ABC’s decoys, who were under the legal drinking age, while the failure rate was much higher for delivery apps, at 80%.

JDub’s Brewing Company Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Sarasota, Florida-based JDub’s Brewing Company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Herald-Tribune.

“The Coronavirus was the determining factor in the filing,” owner Jeremy Joerger wrote on the brewery’s Facebook page. “Once spring training was cancelled, followed by the mandatory closures of bars and restaurants, our most profitable month of the year literally turned into our worst ever, in the course of one day.

“Instead of thousands of Orioles fans coming into the taproom and peak keg sales to bars and restaurants ordering increased beer for our guests from out of town, our busiest time of year became the slowest.”

JDub’s plans to remain in operation during the bankruptcy process, and Joerger wrote that “it has reinvigorated me and, hopefully by extension and most importantly the brand.” The company received a $131,000 loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.

JDub’s year-to-date income before its April 6 filing was $252,370. The company’s income was $2,105,001 in 2019 and $2,506,697 in 2018, according to court documents obtained by the Herald-Tribune.

“I’ve discussed our situation with some of our key customers, most notably Publix, and hope that they will work with us through this situation,” Joerger wrote. “We’ve got beer in the tanks, and capacity to continue to fulfill orders. JDub’s will continue.”

In 2018, the most recent year for which Brewers Association data is available, JDub’s produced 11,000 barrels, a 16% increase over 2017.

Maine, Minnesota Surveys Show Small Brewers Struggling to Stay in Business

Surveys taken in April by craft brewers in Maine and Minnesota show small brewers in those states are struggling to stay afloat.

A survey of Maine Brewers’ Guild members last month revealed that sales are down about 50% or more for a majority of small brewers in the state, the Bangor Daily News reported. A third of the survey’s respondents said their sales had declined 80% or more. And two-thirds of the respondents said they have had to trim their workforces.

Maine remains under a stay at home order, which Gov. Janet Mills extended through May 31.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the picture was equally bleak. A late-April survey of Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild members found that half of the respondents would only be able to sustain their businesses for about six months before permanently closing, according to alt-weekly City Pages. Additionally, 15% of respondents said they could be forced to shutter their businesses within four weeks. The guild estimated that the state’s brewers have lost more than $9.2 million in revenue, although the true number could be three times that figure, City Pages reported.

In the waning days of the Minnesota Legislature, the state’s brewers have been seeking relief from lawmakers in the form of temporary privileges to sell packaged beer to-go from their breweries. A bill in the state House of Representatives would allow breweries to sell 6-packs of 12 oz. cans and 4-packs of 16 oz. cans for the duration of the emergency caused by the pandemic and then for two months after the end of the mergency, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The bill would also allow bars and restaurants to continue selling beer and wine for takeout for an additional 60 days after the end of the emergency declaration. The legislation is meeting strong opposition from wholesaler groups, as well as lobbying groups for bars, restaurants and liquor stores.

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