Liquor stores and breweries have been seen as essential activities in Tennessee throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

But just because they have remained operational does not mean that they are doing well. They have had to change the way they do business to survive.

At the end of February, Southern Grist Brewing Company celebrated its anniversary of making some of the most experimental beers on the market.

Kevin Antoon, the founder, recalled the scale of the event. He said he’s unlikely to repeat himself anytime soon.

“We had 2,000 people in the same building, shoulder to shoulder, sold out drinking beer, sharing glasses,” Antoon told WPLN News. “It will not happen.”

The coronavirus pandemic has shut down taprooms statewide. This means significant losses for companies like Antoon.

“Mainly for Southern Grist – we make about 85% of our revenue from our taprooms,” Antoon said. “We don’t distribute widely. We are not in Kroger.

Other breweries across the state are experiencing similar difficulties.

Sharon Michie, executive director of the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild, surveyed breweries in the state.

“Some breweries have reported a 60% drop in revenue and it’s only been last month,” Michie said.

Others report declines of up to 90%. Michie called it “devastating.”

For the record, liquor stores are also suffering losses. The magnitude of the impact varies from location to location, said Joe Hobbs, president of the Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association. Those in tourist areas – like its liquor store – are the hardest hit.

“Eighty percent of my clients are tourists – I’m right across the street from the Gaylord Hotel,” Hobbs said. “Needless to say my business is down.”

The industry therefore had to adapt. As well as the job descriptions of the employees.

Bartenders have become drivers. Now, many breweries offer curbside delivery and pickup.

Before the pandemic, it was illegal. But in recent weeks, this has been permitted and encouraged.

“If we didn’t have deliveries, we wouldn’t be in business right now,” said Antoon, of Southern Grist.

He said he would like those measures to stay in place at least until Gov. Bill Lee says all businesses can reopen normally. But there are levels of regulation and it is not clear that this would happen.

Meanwhile, breweries are also thinking about what they need for a safe reopening. Many are concerned about the lack of personal protective equipment for employees.

This pandemic has clearly changed the way they do business from now on.


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