If you’re like me, the new (ab)normal of pandemic life got significantly more real Monday, March 16, when Gov. Jared Polis decreed a 30-day moratorium on dine-in service at certain businesses that serve the public, including bars and breweries, effective 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 17.
The news came as a gut punch, but not exactly a surprise, said Teresa Vieira of Peaks N Pines Brewing Co.
“I think all of us had it in the back of our minds that this could happen, but didn’t want to believe it would get to that point,” Vieira said. “Obviously we’re all frustrated, but I think we’re all a pretty resilient group and we’re all trying to find ways to survive. And I think we’ve all been formulating a plan, just in case.”
Breweries had begun implementing that plan, adjusting hours and encouraging patrons to take advantage of beer-to-go options, with some taking call-ahead orders and providing curbside pickup.
Brewery owners met Monday to discuss “how we will move forward in these challenging times,” said Vieira, who sent out an email later that night announcing — on behalf of the group — that operations would continue under that to-go model.
“Most of us are going to try to keep some brewing in operation. I did not hear any breweries say this is going to kill us,” Vieira said. “I think all the breweries, their biggest concern is the employees. With my group, some have other jobs and they’ve said ‘Give any hours to the ones that this is their only paycheck.’ We’re trying to do that and give them enough hours to survive.”
Smiling Toad Brewery reopened less than two weeks ago, after a nine-month closure for a relocation and extensive renovations at 2028 Sheldon Ave. Owner Biff Morehead said he’s trying (hard) to look at the mandated shutdown as “a blessing.”
“We’ve still got some work to do around here, as you know,” said Biff, whose brewery is selling crowlers-to-go and has cut back hours to 3 to 8 p.m.
The situation, ugly though it is, has had its bright sides, he said.
“I got some good positive feelings from the bank, which is working with us, and the community has been great, calling and asking if we’re selling crowlers, if they can come and help,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed. I’m humbled. It’s gonna hurt for a while, but I’m confident we’ll be OK. We’ll all be OK.”
Like Smiling Toad and other breweries, Vieira said Peaks N Pines will continue to partner with food trucks so patrons can get a takeaway meal to pair with their crowler.
The brewers and owners she’s talked with say they can make it work, if it’s temporary, and if the community responds as they hope. And who knows? Maybe to-go orders will become a thing, something more than a shift that kept them afloat during the shutdown.
To find that out, they’ll have to make it through. “That’s the thing we want to put out there. Your breweries are doing their best to keep you filled with craft beer. So buy beer, take it home, and that will keep your local brewery in operation through this crisis so you have some place to go back to when it’s over,” Vieira said. “We’re going to get through this together. And then there’s going to be a good party.”