In an effort to “maintain the long-term viability” of the craft beer industry’s trade and advocacy group, the Colorado-based Brewers Association has laid off 23% of its staff amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has deeply affected every aspect of brewing in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to the layoffs, the BA also has enacted some tiered salary reduction for members of the management team. This is also on top of additional budget cuts that were made earlier in the month, as the BA has essentially been crippled by the cancellation of several of its most important annual events.
“We thoughtfully, carefully, and painfully weighed options to arrive at those decisions,” said the Brewers Association statement. “We believe these actions will help the association weather the storm at this time and to remain committed to its purpose—to promote and protect American craft brewers, their beers, and the community of brewing enthusiasts.”
The layoffs mirror the furloughs and job cuts going on through the beer industry itself, which has seen sweeping layoffs at some of the country’s biggest craft breweries, including the likes of Deschutes, Great Lakes, Founders, Stone, Karl Strauss, McMenamins and many, many others. Most breweries have cut at least some staff as they try to remain solvent in a time when so many avenues for selling beer have closed. Most of those breweries are also offering to-go sales directly to their customers, but those sales represent a drop in the bucket compared to all the lost draft beer sales they would normally be counting on from bars and restaurants.
The BA, meanwhile, has been struck by the loss of revenue from two of its signature events—the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America, and SAVOR—each of which are an important part of the organization’s yearly operation. CBC, for instance, was meant to draw more than 13,000 brewers and beer industry employees to San Antonio, Texas from April 19-22, while the 13th year of SAVOR was meant to be held in Washington D.C. on May 15. Neither will go forward, and it’s telling how desparate the BA must be that they haven’t yet canceled the American Homebrewers Association’s Homebrew Con, which is still technically scheduled to happen June 18-20 in Nashville, TN. One has to wonder whether hosting such a festival is wise, or even possible, even in June. Meanwhile, you know that the BA must be looking intently ahead to the Great American Beer Festival scheduled for Sept. 24-26, 2020, as being able to make sure that event goes off without a hitch would no doubt be a top priority. It will be interesting to see how fast tickets sell when they become available in early August, as GABF does traditionally involve packing many thousands of people into a massive room with one another, making social distancing quite impossible.
Data collected by the BA, meanwhile, has continued to paint a grim picture for the craft beer industry as a whole. In early April, a survey conducted by the trade group found that 46.4% of respondents said their breweries wouldn’t survive a shutdown that lasted up to three months, with 12.7% of respondents saying their business might not even survive another month. It all points toward the likelihood of mass closures in the coming days, even as some states start to plan their process of reopening for business. One would think that after many years of growing overall brewery numbers, 2020’s total of 8,275 will likely represent a peak and the beginning of a descent.