As COVID-19 and the resulting Stay At Home orders swept through the U.S., countless breweries were forced to either close their doors or find ways to creatively continue serving up their brews. Shutting down taprooms has been the reality, and while some have been able to operate with curbside pick-up options or drive-thrus, many breweries were forced to close their doors completely.
As Washington and Oregon have moved toward the first steps of reopening, some counties have gained special permission to expedite reopening their economy, and with that comes the ability for some brewpubs and taprooms to resume service.
However, congregating on a sunny patio, pint in hand, while playing a round of giant Jenga or cornhole won’t be reality for a while, and you probably won’t be chatting next to a friendly stranger at the bar for quite some time. But, area breweries are working hard to bring back as much as they can for you, all while following specific health and safety guidelines.
Reopening in Washington
“We’ve worked hard to build up the relationships we have with our guests,” says Steve Waters, CEO of Backwoods Brewing Co., which reopened their Carson location on May 16. “We don’t want that to suffer because of the extra restrictions that they will have on their dining experience.”
According to Waters, Backwoods will be complying with Washington Governor Inslee’s orders for Phase Two reopening, which includes only operating at a maximum capacity of less than 50%, separating tables with six feet of space in between them and eliminating bar seating.
“One addition to the state orders that we’re making is that, at least in the beginning stages, we will be requiring guests to be at one of our tables in order to consume food and beverages on our premises,” Waters says. Due to Backwoods’ large patio space, it ends up being a popular spot for congregating in the summer months. “We believe this extra rule is the only way to ensure people aren’t congregating in large groups on the patio.”
Reopening in Oregon
In Oregon, 31 counties were approved to move into Phase One of reopening, with Deschutes County, housing Sunriver and Bend, being one of them. Similar to Washington, Oregon requires breweries reopening to space tables at least six feet apart, with bar seating closed if it cannot allow for enough distance. Parties are limited to 10 guests or fewer, and service of food and beverages must end by 10 p.m.
In addition to following all mandates, Sunriver Brewing Co. is introducing a few extra precautions to provide the best experience, while keeping the health and safety of guests and team members in mind. One employee will be solely designated to monitor sanitation, while another employee will be dedicated to crowd control to ensure guests are continuing to distance. In addition, host stands have been moved outside the front door to avoid any crowding in entryways.
But as the brewery moves toward a modified version of table service, Ryan Duley, director of sales and marketing for Sunriver Brewing, says the brewery is still committed to giving guests an experience. The brewery is moving to an online platform, allowing guests to look at a digital menu on their phone by scanning a QR code. Disposable menus will still be on hand for those who prefer a paper copy.
However, interacting with a server and placing an order will remain the same, with the addition of all employees wearing a face mask. “Customer service has always been top of our list, providing great service for the community,” Duley says. “We still want to have some interaction with guests.”