Temporary changes to state liquor laws have helped local businesses generate revenue while consumers stay safer at home.
And local breweries are thankful for those emergency changes, which have been extended by the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission through May 15.
ABLE has temporarily allowed those with alcoholic beverage licenses to take online orders, as well as delivery and curbside food and alcohol sales, a step local brewers say may have helped some small businesses survive.
“With restaurants and bars not able to sell draft beer, we all took a big hit on keg sales. Fortunately, we have cans to sell in the retail market as well, so we increased our canning volume so we could take advantage of that revenue stream,” said Wes Alexander, director of marketing with Marshall Brewing Co.
“The ABLE Commission has been wonderful to work with through the COVID-19 crisis. They have been proactive in enacting temporary rules that allow for small and independent brewers to safely get our beer to consumers. For us at Marshall Brewing, we have built a model around social distancing to allow for packaged to-go beer to procure at our taproom. Other local craft brewers have taken advantage of the temporary rules in ways to benefit their business models. ABLE deserves the gratitude of our industry for quickly offering rules that help our small businesses survive the crisis.”
According to the Brewers Association, 8,275 craft breweries were operating in 2019, including 2,058 microbreweries, 3,011 brewpubs, 2,966 taproom breweries, and 240 regional craft breweries. Throughout the year, there were 942 new brewery openings and 294 closings.
But these stats will most definitely change with the pandemic negatively affecting cash flows.
“The coronavirus pandemic has upended daily life and created a new reality, at least in the short term,” said Lisette Barnes, president of the Oklahoma Beer Alliance. “Many Oklahoma consumers are looking for ways to keep some normalcy to their lives, and businesses are looking for ways to maintain sales. The mission of the Oklahoma Beer Alliance is to enable Oklahomans to choose the highest quality products without compromise, as well as promote responsible consumption, so we applaud the quick efforts of leadership in our state to adapt to this quickly changing situation.
“We’ve been working closely with the ABLE Commission to ensure Oklahoma establishments are able to adapt to the current situation and mitigate any negative impacts that might be felt,” Barnes said. “We’re all in this together, and the more we can accommodate consumers and businesses during this time, the better.”
Renaissance Brewing Co. reopened Friday and will be limiting the taproom capacity to 50%. To-go beer in cans and growlers will be available for purchase in the taproom and curbside. However, delivery will still be available until May 15 for the Renaissance and Florence Park neighborhoods, thanks to the ABLE emergency order.
“We also would like to thank our Renaissance neighbors and customers who have supported us during these tough times,” said owner Glenn Hall. “Without our loyal and devoted customers, we would not be able to survive. We are not out of the woods yet, so we hope all of the craft beer fans and folks who enjoy supporting local family-owned businesses to continue buying our local offerings produced right here in the heart of Tulsa.”
The temporary ABLE order has helped breweries in a variety of ways.
“I would say the main change has been the ability to get beer to customers that probably would not have purchased if we weren’t delivering,” said Desiree Knott, owner of Pippin’s Taproom at High Gravity. “I believe High Gravity is the only brewery in Tulsa that doesn’t have meaningful distribution to local liquor stores. Other breweries can use them as a means to get their beer delivered without having to do it themselves. This helps put High Gravity on the same playing field.
“This has also given us the opportunity to make deliveries from the retail side of the business, which is something we wouldn’t have considered if it weren’t for the ability to deliver beer.”
Here are the emergency authorizations that have been extended through May 15:
• Allowing liquor stores to deliver alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine and spirits, to consumers age 21 and older.
• Small brewers and small-farm wineries can deliver alcoholic beverages they produced in sealed original containers.
• Allowing restaurants, bars and clubs with alcoholic beverage licenses to deliver original sealed packages of only beer, including growlers, and wine to consumers.
• On-premise beer, wine, mixed beverage and caterer/mixed beverage licensees that are primarily Type-2 restaurants, where persons younger than 21 are allowed to enter, may sell closed original packages of beer, including growlers, and wine in conjunction with curbside pickup or drive through food sales.
• Grocery and convenience stores holding retail licenses may deliver closed containers of beer or wine to consumers age 21 and older.
• Licensed beer distributors, small brewers or brewpubs may accept the return of original unopened packages of beer products by licensees that will expire or fall outside the manufacturer’s recommended use date during the period of mandated COVID-19-related closure.
They are subject to be amended, revoked or extended as the coronavirus situation develops.
A few other key points to note include third-party vendors, such as DoorDash and UberEats, are not authorized to make alcohol deliveries, and online payments are restricted at this time.
Also, while these options are open, alcohol licensees are still subject to gubernatorial and municipal closure orders. For more information about the orders, or to see the full guidance, visit ok.gov/able.