The coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the service industry particularly hard. Bars, restaurants, and liquor stores, have all been heavily regulated and even shut down. Events have been postponed. And, industry workers are being forced to reconcile serious medical and financial scenarios.
We will use this space to keep you updated on all of the developments in real time.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Nielsen reported record highs for off-premisses beer sales. However, on-premisses, the market went stale—literally. With bars and large venues closed, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of beer is sitting in kegs and slowly going bad.
In March, Neat Pour reported on a ‘Save The Beer,’ a campaign to sell about 5.4 million beers wasting away in 141 of the Czech Republic’s breweries.
Mirroring the virus’ spread, the beer glut did not reach the US until about a month later. However, when it hit here, it hit hard. Lockdowns coincided with St. Patrick’s Day and the NCAA’s March Madness tournament, two of the biggest draft beer events of the year. The perfect storm could result in over one billion dollars in expired beer according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA).
Required Reading: Gabriel Hamilton, Ivy Mix
As the effects of the COVID pandemic become apparent, discussions about the challenging future for the service industry are filtering into the MSM. This week saw two definitive and sobering looks at the fur ahead from a couple big names in the business.
James Beard winner, Gabriel Hamilton of Prune wrote what might be the definitive piece of the lockdown for the New York Times Magazine. The long-form essay dives into the evolution of the restaurant industry, gentrification, class disparities, and the future of restaurants after the lockdown. Read it here.
SpeedRack’s Ivy Mix wrote a more succinct piece in Esquire explaining the role of bars in communities and advocating for specific relief directed at bars alongside restaurants. Read it here.
Munich Cancels Oktoberfest 2020
Germany is relaxing some lockdown measures, but the country is a long way from normal life. Today, authorities announced that the world renowned Oktoberfest celebration in Munich is cancelled this year, the first cancellation since World War II.
“We agreed that the risk is simply too great,” said Bavarian Premier Markus Söder while speaking alongside Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter at a presser. “We are living in different times and living with corona means living carefully.”
Tales 2020 Cancelled: Digital Options On Table
On Monday (4.20), the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation (TOTCF) formally announced the obvious—due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will not be a cocktail festival attended by thousands in New Orleans this summer. Instead, the organization will explore alternate avenues to foster community and education this year.
Important Reads: Angel Burke’s Eater Piece on Listening to Black Women
Writer and creator of Black Food & Beverage, Angela Burke penned a much needed essay for Eater. In the piece, titled, “It’s Time for the Hospitality Industry to Listen to Black Women,” Burke dives into the long history of prejudice against women of color in the service industry, the current pandemic’s disproportionate effect on the African-American population, and then offers some inspiration.
Trump Announces F&B Recovery Task Force
On Wednesday (4.16), President Trump announced the subcommittee tasked with leading the effort to reopen restaurants and bars following the current quarantine. The 23 member list was notably heavy on large corporations, light on small business, and entirely devoid of women.
The Food & Beverage group is a subcommittee of Trump’s Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups. According to a White House statement, these task forces will “work together with the White House to chart the path forward toward a future of unparalleled American prosperity.”
Nielsen: Alcohol Sales Continue To Post Big Numbers, But Consistency Grows
Nielsen just posted their numbers for the week ending April 4 and total off-premises alcohol sales were up 25% compared to the same week last year. However, the initial surge of stockpiling seems to be officially over with this week only posting a 4% increase over last week’s already plateau’d digits.
Spirits and wine continued to perform strongly, up 33% and 32% respectively. Beer/FMB/Cider dollar were up 19%.
Danny Brager, SVP of Beverage Alcohol at Nielsen said that recent data also indicates the premiumization trend has only grown during quarantine.
“The general premiumization trend that we’ve seen for a few years now has continued to this point. For the week ending April 4, 2020, average retail selling prices exceeded the comparable year ago levels – +3% for Beer/FMB/Cider, +2% for wine, and +1% for spirits. This is something we’ll continue to watch in tandem with the economic fall-outs of COVID-19.”
McConaughey & Cobert Plug ‘Another Round, Another Rally’
On Monday (4.14), Matthew and Camila McConaughey appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to talk about the actor’s past as a bartender and help raise funds for furloughed hospitality industry workers, specifically push ‘Another Round, Another Rally.’ (They also shared some drinks and McConaughey profoundly mused, “The right time to pour a cocktail is before it’s too late.”
Watch it below.
Poll: Americans Miss Bars & Restaurants Most
A new survey of US consumer habits and the COVID-19 pandemic from the ENGINE Group reported that Americans miss bars and restaurants more than almost any other event. 85% of the sample group said that they missed meals and drinks out, placing the category into a statistical tie with “seeing family members” for first. For comparison, sports events, live performances, and movies all netted 55%.
Diageo Halts Buybacks, Advertising
In another sign of the times, Diageo is severely scaling back their corporate forecasts and plans. In a statement, the spirits behemoth announced a halt to their $5.6bn share buyback program, reiterated their previous warnings about severely diminished earnings, and declared a pause in their advertising and marketing effort.
Still, the corporation credited that they will bounce back after the crisis passes.
“I am confident in Diageo’s long-term strategy and our ability to move quickly in this difficult environment,” said Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes in the statement. “We will continue to execute with discipline and invest prudently to ensure we are strongly positioned for a recovery in consumer demand. I am proud of the resilience and commitment of our people as they work hard to support our partners, customers and communities.”
Bar Convent Brooklyn Postponed
Bar Convent Brooklyn (BCB) is officially postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers announced today. A statement explained that the event will be held on August 11 and 12 and tickets will be complimentary for members of the industry. In addition, BCBK unveiled a host of new initiatives aimed at bolstering the industry.
The novel coronavirus pandemic is devastating the hospitality industry and killing tens of thousands of people. Medical writer (and Neat Pour contributor) Brett Moskowitz published this excellent look at the basics of the virus from a medical standpoint. An important read.
Alcohol Sales Slow, But Remain High
Nielsen just released the sales stats for the week ending March 28, 2020. After an initial surge of stockpiling, off-premise consumer buying slowed down considerably. However, the figures were still up 22% for the period.
Beer/FMB/Cider dollar sales notched a 17% increase, while spirits and wine each recorded 27% jumps up. Not surprising, the big winner was e-commerce—sales there were 291% above last year’s numbers.
“Not unexpectedly given the stunning consumer purchasing levels we saw in the two previous weeks, while sales still grew significantly versus one year ago in the week ending March 28, 2020, they also dropped significantly versus last week’s levels,” said Danny Brager, Nielsen’s SVP for Beverage Alcohol. “It appears that this week was an ‘adjustment’ week during which consumers moved away from the same level of stocking up we saw previously.”
Last week, Grupo Modelo announced that they would temporally stop brewing Corona beer to comply with a government order halting all non-essential businesses.
However, it looks like the Tequila industry falls into a different bucket. The tequila houses argued that they are a subset of agriculture, which the government deems essential.
As not to disrupt the already-fragile crops cycles, agave planting and harvest will continue on schedule.
Corona Beer Halts Production Due To COVID-19
Today, Grupo Modelo, Corona beer’s parent company, announced that the popular Mexican beer will temporarily close their Breweries. The move was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, but not for the reason that you might guess.
The company shuttered their plants in accordance with an order from the Mexican government (which deemed breweries “non-essential.”) The company said that the brand’s name had nothing to do with the decision.
In fact, Constellation which handles US sales of Corona and Modelo (AB InBev owns the company/rights elsewhere), just saw their stock prices surge, buoyed by a reported Corona/Modelo 8.9% sales growth for the quarter.
Service Industry, Once Again, Sparks Record Unemployment Numbers
Toay, the Department of Labor released the latest round of unemployment figures for the past week. For the second consecutive week, the stats confirmed a new record high in initial claims—driven in large part by laid off service industry workers.
For the week ending March 28, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 6,648,000, an increase of 3,341,000 from the previous week. For perspective, consider that the previous record was 695,000 in October of 1982. In fact, while most economists predicted dire numbers, these totals exceeded even those projections.
According to the DoL, states cited layoffs in accommodations and food services as a primary driver. “However, state comments indicated a wider impact across industries,” the report noted. “Many states continued to cite the health care and social assistance, and manufacturing industries, while an increasing number of states identified the retail and wholesale trade and construction industries.”
Spirits Sales Surge
Nielsen (yeah, the same company the does TV ratings) reported that sales of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. jumped 55% in the week ending March 21.
Spirits were at the point of the charge, leaping 75%; tequila, gin and ready-to-drink (RTC) cocktails sold the most in the category. Wine sales increased 66% and beer saw a–still significant–42% uptick.
Not surprisingly, online sales skyrocketed (+243%) above brick-n-mortar shops.
Six Chicago Hospitality Groups Sue Insurer Over Business Interruption
Eater Chicago detailed how six major Chicago bar and restaurant groups banded together to file a federal lawsuit against their insurer. Specifically, the suit contests the Society Insurance’s decision to deny the venues’ claims for “interruption of business.”
The plaintiff list includes Headquarters Beercade and Machine; Big Onion Tavern Group (Fatpour Tapworks, Woodies’s Flat); Happy Camper, Homeslice, and Paradise Park; and the Vig, the Whale and Welcome Back Lounge.
The case is likely to set an important precedent as thousands of other restaurants and bars wrestle with their own insurance companies over the same issue.
WSJ: US To Temporarily Halt Collection of Import Tariffs
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Trump administration is planning a three month suspension of customs duties collections. (Mind you, those tariffs will still be be due in full at the end of the reprieve period.)
The news will certainly be welcome by the spirits industry which took a series of hard hits when the administration targeted alcohol, particularly spirits and wine, in a series of trade wars with Europe.
5.4 Million Czech Beers Need Drinking To Save Local Brewers
The Czech Republic loves beer. According to a report from Kirin, Czech lead the world in per capita consumption, averaging 143 liters per resident annually. At the heart of this passion are hundred of small, local breweries. But, COVID-19 pandemic is posing an existential crisis to these breweries.
141 Czech microbreweries teamed up to launch the ‘Save The Beer’ campaign. According to confederacy of brewers, the businesses must unload this inventory before it goes bad–or risk closing forever.
To that end, they launched an awesome website which lets thirty Czechs track supplies in each brewery (as well as nation-wide) and place orders.
Time To Revisit Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Advice On Making Cocktail Videos
As the novel coronavirus pandemic spreads, bartenders are finding themselves with a lot of spare time. A popular way to fill the void is posting cocktail videos online; alas, the results have been, er, mixed.
Fortunately, back in 2015, craft OG Jeffrey Morgenthaler made a seminal video–about making videos. The four minute clip is packed with useful advice (eg call the ingredients “our bottle”) for anyone hoping to make their own cocktail clip. Even if you prefer to stay out of frame, the piece also serves as a pretty poignant breakdown of the industry’s film formula.
Stimulus Package Signed Into Law
On Friday, the House passed and the President signed a historic $2 trillion economic stimulus package designed to counteract the economic collapse bought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The law includes extended unemployment benefits, direct payments to Americans, and forgivable loans to small businesses.
Service Industry Drives New Record Unemployment Numbers
Today, the Department of Labor released the unemployment figures for the past week. As expected, the numbers reflected a new record high in initial claims—driven in large part by laid off service industry workers.
For the week ending March 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 3,283,000, a jump of 3,001,000 from the previous week. For perspective, consider that the previous record was 695,000 in October of 1982.
According to the DoL, states cited layoffs in accommodations and food services as a primary driver. In addition, claims were heavy from workers in the health care and social assistance, arts, entertainment and recreation, transportation and warehousing, and manufacturing industries.
Hand Sanitizer Tax Exemption For Distilleries Added To Stimulus Bill
After an initial outcry, Congress added key provision for distilleries to the (theoretically) final version of the economic stimulus package. According to Bloomberg Law, distilleries that have begun producing undenatured alcohol for hand sanitizer will not be subject to federal excise tax on the product.
The exemption, scheduled to last for the remainder of the year, was the topic of big lobbying push by an already reeling industry represented by trade group DiSCUS.
What The Stimulus Package Means For Hospitality Workers
In the early hours of Wednesday (3.25) morning, the Senate reached a compromise on a two trillion dollar economic stimulus package, a historically gargantuan injection of direct payments, loans, and bailout money into the economy. The legislation promises to put money in the hands of every American (as well as some big corporations).
However, when it comes to payroll matters, the service industry often feels a little different. Factors like the sub minimum wage and tipping eve make taxes a bit more complicated. So, what does this stimulus package mean for workers in the industry?
Stranded In US, Two Schmuck’s Team Chronicles Industry Under Quarantine
Almost a month ago, the team from Barcelona’s Two Schmucks arrived in the U.S. for a standard industry tour. Unfortunately, the novel coronavirus pandemic exploded in that time frame. The team found themselves unable to return to their native Spain due to quarantines.
So, they decided to safely tour the US by RV. Along the way, they are stopping to conduct socially distant interviews with bar owners and workers about the pandemic’s devastating effect on the industry.
Check out this particularly poignant piece at Nashville’s Pearl Diver.
Denver Reverses Course on Liquor Stores & Dispensaries–Fast
On Monday night, Michael Hancock announced that marijuana dispensaries and liquor/wine stores would be shuttered as ‘non-essential’ businesses under the city’s COVID-19 measures. However, within an hour of the announcement, the city’s dispensaries and bottle shops were soon overwhelmed by massive crowds.
Needless to say, Hancock soon recognized his folly. The City took to Twitter to quickly reverse their decision.
Starter For Hospitality Industry Workers Filing For Unemployment
Most states are now under full or partial shut-downs which means that hundreds of thousands of service industry workers are out of work. While unemployment insurance benefits will not replace anyone’s regular pay, the program is a good start. Unemployment varies in rules and check-size from state to state, but there are some common elements. We talked to a dozen bar and restaurant industry workers about their experiences filing. Here are their tips for weathering the process.
Some Levity: Enjoy The Sounds Of An Expo Printer
Are you missing work in the industry? Well, you can always close your eyes and listen to this audio of tickets coming in on an expo printer.
Updated: Financial Resources For Hospitality Industry Workers
At this point, most industry workers are either unemployed or working severely reduced hours, selling delivery only. On the plus side, several funds have emerged to help impacted employees.
We’ve just updated our list with a couple new additions. Check out our running roster of fiscal resources for the service industry here.
NY, NJ, And Illinois Deem Liquor Stores ‘Essential’
New York, New Jersey, and Illinois are all under statewide “stay at home” orders. That means that all non-essential businesses must close. Fortunately, the states’ leadership labelled liquor stores as “essential.”
Not only do stores have the option of remaining open–some shopkeepers would rather err on the side of safety and shut their doors–but across the country, states are also relaxing purchase regulations to allow for home delivery. In addition, most microbreweries and cideries will also be allowed to sell their libations to-go.
Alas, Pennsylvania residents are not as lucky. The Keystone State is closing down their state owned shops.
DiSCUS Calls For Help For Distillers
Liquor industry trade group, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DiSCUS) launched a campaign to seek relief for American distilleries. Despite a slew of feel-good stories about switching production to hand sanitizer, the country’s distilleries are feeling the COVID crunch.
“Distillers have been forced to make difficult decisions, including, in some cases, shutting down production and laying off staff,” explained a statement from DiSCUS.
The group is lobbying Congress for measures including:
• Federal excise tax relief
• No- and low-interest loan assistance
• An industry stabilization fund
• The suspension of tariffs on beverage alcohol and their suppliers
DiSCUS is asking the public to email legislators with requests–link to their campaign page here.
Molson Coors Drops $1 Million & Social Campaign to Help Bartenders
The Molson Coors Beverage Company there their weight behind efforts to aid bartenders today. The beer behemoth pledged one million dollars to the USBG Relief Fund and launched a social media campaign aimed at soliciting additional donations from the public.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 37 years in the beer business it’s that bartenders have always played a key role on the front lines selling our products,” said Kevin Doyle, president of U.S. sales for Molson Coors in a statement. “Over the years they’ve helped make our brands successful and it’s only right we give something back.”
ROC Pushes Chains & Franchises For Paid Sick Leave
The Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United is doubling down on their existing campaign to gain sick days for employees of Applebees, Chili’s, Denny’s, and IHOP.
In a new series of petitions, letters, and postings the organization demands that said restaurant chains take immediate action on the issue in light of the OCIVD-19 pandemic.
Regarding IHOP and Applebees, the group notes that different franchises have different policies and urges corporate to mandate paid sick days for all locations.
In the case of Chilis, ROC offers some tough love. “As a large chain restaurant, Chili’s unfortunately has a troubled history of public health issues, having been sued by customers for salmonella, food-poisoning, among other health-related lawsuits,” reads the petition’s introduction. “This is an opportunity for Chili’s to finally be on the right side of history by leading the industry along with Olive Garden on public health issues by providing paid sick days to their employees.”
As for Denny’s ROC stresses the public health angle stressing that the chain “disproportionately serves the elderly population” and then urges “Denny’s do your part and follow Olive Garden’s lead in providing paid sick days to your employees.”
‘Save America’s Restaurants’ Petition Urges Emergency Measures
Numerous entreaties for restaurants relief circulated around the web over the past week. Among them, ‘Save America’s Restaurants,’ a change.org petition, is picking up significant traction.
Framed as an open letter to government leaders from leading chefs and restauranteurs, the piece cals for specific policy measures. Specifically, the petition calls for emergency employment benefits for laid off workers, waiving payroll tax, rent and loan abatement for laid off workers, a temporary change in regulations to facilitate to-go and delivery alcohol, and changes to zoning that would allow restaurants to operate like small markets selling prepared foods.
Signatories include Hugh Acheson, Marc Forgione, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Alice Waters, and Geoffrey Zakarian.
Beam Suntory & Southern Glazer’s Donate $1 Million
Beam Suntory and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits are donating a combined $1 million to the coronavirus pandemic’s two high profile service industry relief funds: the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) Foundation Emergency Assistance Program and the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation.
“The people of Beam Suntory and our colleagues at SGWS are passionate about helping support the bartenders, restaurant workers and their families whose lives have been turned upside down by the global pandemic,” said Albert Baladi, President and CEO, Beam Suntory. “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary actions. We are proud to support the trade community and their livelihoods, as they are part of our extended Beam Suntory family, and we are fortunate to be part of an industry where so many companies are uniting to assist our communities in this unprecedented battle.”
Plus. they made a video…
Financial Help For Industry Workers
A few major funds have emerged to help provide financial assistance to industry workers impacted by the COVID-19 layoffs. The USBG, One Fair Wage, and the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation all have significant efforts off the ground. So, use that spare time to fill out those apps–or make a donation if you can!
Check out the details here.
Bar & Restaurant Closing Orders Surging
Over the course of the weekend into Monday, governors across the United States ordered bars and restaurants shuttered to the public. In most cases, restaurants will still be allowed to conduct takeout business. The current list of states is comprised of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.
Most of the orders call for a four week minimum of closures with an assessment beginning in about three weeks.
NY To Allow Drinks To Go
New York may be shutting down bars, but the closures are not exactly shuttered. According to a report from Gothamist, Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that patrons may not hang out in bars, but they can still order a drink to go.
“Whatever you could order [in] the bar or restaurant or distillery or winery you can purchase through takeout,” Cuomo declared during a presser. “We hope that goes a long way toward alleviating any economic hardship.”
Cuomo noted that the State Liquor Authority will need to change the official rules to accommodate the request. However, don’t get too excited. He followed up by stressing that the change was temporary only.
Pennsylvania Closes Most Liquor Stores
The Pennsylvania State Liquor Control Board announced that all of their stores will remain open on Sunday. However, the following day, only 14 locations will remain open. Each county will have one location for wholesale, not retail, customers. Retail customers can still make purchases online though. A decision on reopening will be made at the end of the month.
Berlin & Cologne, Germany Shutter Bars
The governments of Berlin and Cologne ordered all bars, restaurants, nightclubs, cinemas, and theaters closed. On April 20, 2020, the situation will be “reassessed.” Currently, there is some confusion as to whether the order kicks in immediately or begins on Tuesday.
A Guide To Medical Care & Finances For Service Industry In The Time Of COVID-19
Officially a pandemic now, the coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak is drastically changing the daily lives of people around the world. However, perhaps no progression will feel the brunt of the virus like the bar and restaurant industry. Hospitality workers face a duel threat to both health and finances.
In this first installment of a five part series, we look at some basic preparations for service industry employees regarding medical care and financial implications amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.