Craft breweries feeling impacts of COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 10:31 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 21:51:04-04

NORFOLK, Va. - The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting craft breweries throughout the country.

“Our own polling suggests that 25% of independent craft breweries are concerned about their viability if operational restrictions continue past June 10.” Brett Vassey, President & CEO of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild said.

A new survey by the Brewers Association shows a significant drop in sales, and says a lot of breweries could close down by July.

It’s been tough for Kenny Van Hook with Elation Brewing.

The pandemic has impacted his Norfolk brewery. He told News 3 his sales have dropped 93 to 95% and that he had to furlough most of his staff.

“It feels like it’s taken all of the wind out of the sails,” Van Hook said.

Bart Watson, Chief Economist for the Brewers Association, is keeping tabs on brewery conditions nationwide.

“It is a challenging environment right now,” Watson said. “Most breweries were built around welcoming people into their brewery, selling pints over the bar. When you don’t have that option, it’s just difficult to make the math work.”

Watson said about 550 breweries across the country took part in the survey, including 13 from Virginia.

The survey shows direct on-site sales for breweries are down about 65%, distributed draught sales are down about 95% and about 60% of breweries could close down by July.

“The thought of this business failing and my employees not having a job to come to, and not having people in here, is heartbreaking,” Van Hook said.

Watson added the survey also shows an 8% spike in packaged sales and believes there could be new opportunities for breweries, including delivery and to-go orders.

Click here for full coverage on open businesses

Van Hook told News 3, during the pandemic, his business has been all delivery and takeout orders. He said drive-thru, pickup orders make up about 10-20% of all sales.

“Seeing people walk up and happy that we have our product still, it really means a lot,” he said.

For Van Hook, he's looking ahead, ready to serve many in the years to come.

“We’re not going to give up easily,” Van Hook said.

For more information on resources being offered by the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, click here.

Click here for full coronavirus coverage.