DULUTH — Around half of Minnesota craft breweries will shut their doors if business operations are still limited six months from now.
That's according to a survey done by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, which is now pushing for an expansion of what breweries can serve out of their taprooms during the virus as well as numerous other relief measures. Many Duluth breweries say any and all change is welcomed.
Guild Executive Director Lauren Bennett McGinty said breweries are in desperate need of support.
'We are at a point where we're begging the Legislature to pass something because it's absolutely necessary right now," she said.
With taprooms closed, breweries are posed to lose 30-50% of their revenue — not counting canceled or modified orders, Bennett McGinty said. She's also heard of breweries struggling to obtain federal relief loans, while others are hesitant to take on more loans as many have new loans associated with expansion or opening.
The guild is asking to temporarily allow breweries to sell beer in 12- to 64-ounce containers — bypassing the state's three-tiered distribution systems that require breweries to go through a distributor and retailer for can and bottle sales.
"It's a really dire situation and we're just trying to help them move product as quickly as possible," she said.
The guild is also seeking to suspend regulatory fees, waive sales tax payments for hospitality businesses, establish a rent forbearance and abatement program, delay property tax payments and expand the state's small business loan program.
Bent Paddle Brewing would start selling its 12-packs from the taproom if allowed. But that won't have a major impact on the brewery's revenue as it has a large distribution channel, said co-founder Laura Mullen.
Even as the brewery sells to-go growlers, crowlers and merchandise from its Lincoln Park location, taproom sales are down by 80%. They've also seen major decreases in sales to liquor stores and restaurants, and have altered production to only make 6- and 12-packs, she said.
"Literally anything would help," Mullen said.
There are several craft brewers in Duluth that don't make 12-ounce cans or bottles of their beer, regardless, they support the proposed changes as any relief will help.
Hoops Brewing closed its doors mid-March and has since offered curbside pickup. "It's hurting the business a little bit but it's keeping people safe," said Dave Hoops, brewery owner and contributing News Tribune columnist.
The Canal Park brewery was unable to sell all of the beer it made due to the economic slowdown. In lieu of tossing it, Hoops gave away thousands of dollars worth of free beer to health care workers and first responders every Monday in April.
Hoops doesn't have infrastructure to make 12-ounce cans or bottles of beer, but still supports the guild's recommended changes.
"I certainly worry about the business, but, in general, we've gotten a lot of support," Hoops said.
Down the street at Canal Park Brewing Co., head brewer Ben Gipson has seen customers be receptive to their curbside pickup option. "We feel lucky to be part of the Duluth community," he said.
With all of Canal Park's sales on-site, proposed container changes wouldn't impact them. But Gipson is hopeful that some changes are made that allow them to sell higher volumes of beer, as a handful of batches are nearing the end of their lives.
"The more time we're like this, it's more likely we're gonna be talking more and more barrels down the drain," he said. "I'm really passionate about making beer and have to see it go down the drain ... it's pretty tough."