Under Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order from late June, tasting rooms at distilleries, wineries, and breweries were shut down along with bars in an effort to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Many in the craft beverage industry argue their businesses should not be lumped in with bars.
“We don’t have late hours like a bar,” said Leigh Damuth, the tasting room manager at Save the World Brewing Company in Marble Falls. “We don’t encourage people to stay and drink. It’s a lot more about tasting the beer. We even close early. We’re typically closed by six or seven o’clock.”
The governor’s order targets businesses that receive 51 percent or more of their gross receipts from alcohol sales. The businesses can remain open for delivery and takeout, including alcoholic beverages.
Meanwhile, restaurants — some with bars — and theme parks were able to stay open at 50 percent capacity and enforced social distancing.
Damuth understands the need for social distancing but said Save the World, like many breweries, wineries, and distilleries, can use outdoor spaces instead of indoor tasting rooms.
“If they would let us use our patio, it’s safe,” she said. “Everything’s spread out. There’s lots of space for people to enjoy a beer. I understand not having the indoors open. It’s safer outside, and we have plenty of space for people.”
Dana and David Flanigan, founders of Flanigan’s Texas Distillery and Winery in Bertram, also wish they could go by the same rules as other businesses that have been allowed to stay open.
“Why is it that restaurants, cafes, diners, or frankly even Walmart, can figure out how to socially distance and protect their customers and still maintain their business, but we’ve been told, no, you guys can’t figure that out,” Dana Flanigan said. “That’s been very daunting and upsetting.”
Flanigan has talked with other wineries who say their sales are down as much as 60 percent.
“These places are much more isolated,” Flanigan said. “You have to go out of your way to that destination. Most people are just not going to do that to buy a bottle.”
Save the World is relying on its distribution, to-go sales, and online ordering to do business.
“It’s definitely not as busy as it was,” Damuth said of the brewery’s business. “People enjoy that tasting experience. They like to come in and try tasting several things at once. You know, sitting down and having a beer with your friends is not like grabbing a six-pack to go.
“If people would help, send something to the governor,” Damuth added. “Distilleries, wineries, breweries, we’re not like bars. Reach out to the governor’s office and help us out.”