When the Governor decided to yet again close bars in order to slow the spread of the pandemic, he did so by lumping breweries that were operating safely in with bars that clearly were not.
Local Austin area breweries went out of their way to safely open, most only opening their outdoor patios. They required masks, distanced tables, provided contactless payments, and some even created outdoor spaces that didn’t exist before the pandemic. While breweries were sharing best practices and working hard to put safety protocols in place, downtown bars opened so recklessly the Governor once again shut them down. However, the guidance used to distinguish who could be open and who could not centered around closing businesses that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages. While effectively closing the bars (that ruined it for the rest of us), it also closed most brewery taprooms across the state.
As of Friday, the TABC announced new guidance that allows a brewery to temporarily modify their license to exclude the patio or outdoor area. As many breweries and other businesses around town are quickly pivoting to take advantage of this new loophole, it still does not solve the ultimate issue of brewery taprooms, distilleries, and wineries being lumped in with bars under the current orders.
One brewery owner decided to launch a campaign to send a message directly to the Governor, “we have been pushing for the same allowances as restaurants – it’s what our customers want too, so we decided to give them a voice,” stated founder and owner of Infamous Brewing Company Josh Horowitz. How does it work? Simply patron Infamous Brewing Company for a pint on the patio, or beer-to-go, fill out one of their free postcards and they will mail it off for you, “we want a whole pile of letters on the Governor’s desk!” When I asked Horowitz if he planned to continue the campaign even though breweries can now open their patio, his response was simple: “Hell Yes.”
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