Braving an unhappy hour: Area breweries adapt to coronavirus crisis
By the time this column goes online or hits papers, who knows how accurate it will be — that's the nature of our current times. Situational fluidity is what this cornonavirus (COVID-19) crisis has wrought.
A course of action set at noon may be clarified by 2 p.m., and then wholly rewritten by 5 pm. These are confusing and frustrating times for us all, but extraordinarily trying times for our community of locally owned businesses.
From restaurants to nonprofits, bars to breweries, small business owners have been on high-alert 24/7.
They have been tasked not only with extra preparations and precautions for their immediate family, but also their extended work family — the employees and suppliers who depend on them for income and support. All while staying abreast of the latest in "best practices" issued by the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control.
We've publicly seen local hospitality staples like Madison Social, Tally Mac Shack, Slide Hustle, Cabos, Riccardo's, Ology, Proof, and many others — all undoubtedly hit hard by the shifting economy — proactively announce adaptations in processes, seating, and increased sanitization efforts.
Additionally, Tallahassee's entrepreneurs have sought ways to remain a safe source of income and food for some of the more vulnerable in our community.
On Tuesday, March 17, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threw local establishments yet another curveball, allowing restaurants to remain open with additional restrictions — but ordering bars and nightclubs to close for 30 days.
What the Governor's announcement means for Florida's brewing community has yet to be completely determined, but we have seen a lot of shifting over the last 24-48 hours. Going into effect at 5 pm on March 17, the Governor's announcement seemed to close (for 30 days) any establishment where alcohol sales accounted for more than 50% of total sales — which includes most, if not all, breweries. We even received messages of instances where police officers in Jacksonville and Tallahassee, peacefully enforced closures.
So here's a closer look at where things stand as of ...
TLH beer to-go
On March 18, no doubt through a TON of work for clarification by the Florida Brewers Guild, the restriction seems to have lightened as breweries are moving forward with online and curbside package sales. A process we tried at Ology Brewing Company and found to be incredibly smooth and low-risk. While each brewery will no doubt have subtle differences, their process generally works as follows:
1) Go online, order, pay, and schedule a beer pickup time.
2) Proceed to the brewery and park (in this case curbside), where an
attendant checked and verified our ID
3) The attendant delivers the beer, thoroughly sanitized, to the vehicle
Several glove changes occurred during the transaction to maintain sterile surfaces throughout the exchange, handling ID, handling beer, etc.
While the interpretation of the order and the implementation of processes may shift, here's how to safely support your #TLHBreweries utilizing to-go ordering from all four of our area's craft breweries.
Proof Brewing Company (1320 South Monroe St.):
Ordering website: proofbrewingco.com/store
Phone: 850-241-3322 between 4 and 8 pm
Hours: Wednesday - Friday 4 - 8 p.m. and Saturday/Sunday Noon - 5 p.m.
(Food also may be ordered from Proper Brew Pub at Proof)
Ology Brewing Company (Midtown location only - 118 E. Sixth Ave.)
Ordering website: curbside.ologybrewing.com
Hours: 2–8 p.m., 7 days per week
Deep Brewing Company (2524 Cathay Ct.)
Ordering website: pickup.deepbrewing.com
Phone: (850) 567-0295
Hours: 7 days a week Noon-6 p.m.
Lake Tribe Brewing Company (3357 Garber Drive)
Hours: Friday - 5-8 p.m. and Saturday 4-8 p.m.
Big Bend Brewfest postponed - again
We're not sure there's a more resilient person in the North Florida beer community than Dawn Perez Viola. The organizer of Perry's annual Big Bend Brewfest saw last year's event canceled the day of due to officials and weather forecasts predicting truly dangerous storms — storms they never showed. But Dawn did, waited at the gate, to
personally apologize to every attendee that might've missed the notice of cancellation and inviting them to return when the festival rescheduled on March 16.
This year's 3rd Annual Big Bend Brewfest's postponement is due to something nobody could've forecast — a pandemic.
As with so many other gatherings, the coronavirus has led to the postponement of the festival — which was slated for Saturday, March 21 — with Dawn releasing a statement this week regarding the delay of this year's event:
"It is with much regret that I announce the postponement of the Big Bend Brewfest event. After much urging from the Governor's office, the CDC, and our city [Perry] and county [Taylor], it is for the safety of our community and attendees that we postpone. We will refund all ticket sales, be patient, please. We will reschedule as soon as it is deemed safe to do so. Please stay tuned and be sure to come out and support this event when we do reschedule."
No reschedule date has been set yet, but independent beer and the Rotary Club has a great partner in Dawn, and we're positive folks will show out when this festival gets the fest rescheduled. Can't wait to support Dawn, the Rotary Club and the 3rd Annual Big Bend Brewfest — whenever it happens.
St. George Island Brewfest rescheduled
Earlier this week, organizers of the 5th Annual SGI Brewfest — scheduled for April 18 — announced the postponement of their festival to, at the time, a date undetermined. Well, moments before we submitted this week's column we received some much needed good news via this message from even organizers; a new date of Oct. 3 has been
set. Here's the SGI Brewfest Committee's statement on their Facebook page:
"Hi, Brewfest beer-lovers and pet-pals!
This [announcement] probably comes as no surprise, but the SGI Brewfest has decided to officially postpone our April 18 event until later in the year due to current CDC social distancing guidelines associated with COVID-19.
However, we're excited to tell you that we've met with our breweries and distributors, and we have rescheduled the SGI Brewfest for Saturday, October 3, 2020!
Even though our event has always had a "No Refunds – Rain or Shine" policy, we understand that changing our date may cause some folks not to be able to attend.
Raising funds for the Franklin County Humane Society remains our primary mission, particularly during what is likely to be a difficult period for small non-profit organizations. As important is continuing to build goodwill within and relationships among our SGI Brewfest family (that's y'all). We hope you can make it for our new date on Oct. 3.
Should you wish to keep your tickets and attend on Oct. 3, you don't need to do anything! Your tickets are still good and will be honored. Should you wish to receive a refund, please email us through Eventbrite or at email@example.com, and we will issue your refund.
If you can't make it on Oct. 3 and wish to donate the funds from your ticket purchase to the Humane Society, you don't need to do anything! All proceeds from the SGI Brewfest benefit the Franklin County Humane Society, and any funds collected from unused tickets will be included in our donation to the Humane Society. Should you
wish to request a refund, you must do so by 4/18/2020. After that date, no refunds will be given, and any unused ticket sale funds will be included in our donation to the Humane Society.
So stay tuned in the days and months to come. The 2020 SGI Brewfest is going to be the best one yet, and we can't wait to see all of you on beautiful St. George Island!
Cheers, SGI Brewfest"
One thing is for sure: With nearly six additional months to plan, this year's SGI Brewfest is 100% going to be the best one yet.
That's going to do it for this week y'all, be sure to be safe, be courteous, be united — be Tallahassee! We'll get through this together...and with the help of a few beers. Cheers!
Matthew Crumbaker is co-founder of the TLH Beer Society, a group of avid craft beer lovers. He is also a co-host of Saturday Morning Bottle Share on 97.9 ESPN radio. Follow TLH Beer Society at Facebook.com/TLHBeerSociety or @TLHBeerSociety on Twitter and Instagram. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.