The blows just keep on coming for the craft beer industry, as the nation’s largest chain of brewpub enterprises has laid off all 18,000 of its employees effective this week. Craftworks, the parent company of the Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch, Old Chicago and ChopHouse brewpub chains, terminated its entire workforce as of March 31. All of those employees are now without a job, and without health benefits to boot.
This is only four weeks after the Nasville-based Craftworks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, listing assets and liabilities between $100 and $500 million. That would seem to imply the company’s woes stretch from well before the current pandemic-related shut-downs. We wouldn’t be surprised if chains like Rock Bottom and Gordon Biersch had increasingly taken a hit as more consumers moved to supporting the taprooms of small, locally operated breweries.
The current era of shelter-in-place orders, however, would seemingly have been the last straw for many of these brewpubs. On March 18 the company closed every one of its restaurants, choosing to shutter them instead of transitioning to the curbside takeout/pickup method that is currently keeping many companies afloat. Individual restaurant locations posted messages implying that they would re-open at a later date, but that possibility will seemingly become less likely the longer the current situation stretches on.
Regardless, it’s a crushing blow to those 18,000 employees, and likely means the closure of dozens or hundreds of brewpubs around the country. Below is a copy of the letter sent to Craftworks employees who were terminated.
March 31, 2020
Dear Craftworks team,
First off, please know that I hope each of you and your families are safe and doing as well as possible given the circumstances. My thoughts are with each of you every moment of every day as we continue to navigate these challenging times.
Our small team continues to make progress consolidating the Company and preparing for a day, hopefully soon, when we can return to the business of serving our communities across all our great brands.
Due to the current state of affairs in the bankruptcy process, the Company’s existing benefit plans will be terminated effective March 31, 2020. Regrettably, because the plans are being terminated, there will be no COBRA continuation coverage available under the group health plans. All claims incurred on or before March 31, 2020 will be handled in accordance with the plan’s usual terms, but there will be no coverage for health care services or items you receive after that date.
To assist everyone with this transition, please find attached a list of options for you to consider as you seek alternative health plan coverage for yourself and your family. Your separation is generally considered a qualifying event that should provide you a special enrollment right (typically 30 days from the loss of coverage) to enroll in other coverage. You may want to explore coverage options available through the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace at www.healthcare.gov, options through a spouse/partner’s employer plan, a parent’s employer plan (if you are under age 26), Medicare, etc.
In addition, effective March 31, 2020, the status of all team members will be revised from furloughed to terminated. You will receive additional communication from our third-party administrator regarding your benefit selections and how you can handle this transition (HSA, 401k, Life, Disability, etc.).
Finally, please know that we continue to work diligently towards a reopening date and are looking forward to the day when we hope to bring many of you back with a new suite of benefits.
Thank you for your understanding and please be well. See you in a restaurant soon!
Chief Executive Officer