Many brewpubs across the Austin area are uniquely positioned among craft beer producers to open their taprooms early because of their ability to serve food, seeing as Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order to reopen the Texas economy May 1 included restaurants but not bars.
In spite of this, only a few brewpubs in and around Austin have announced plans to reopen their doors to customers May 1, even as revenue continues to dwindle statewide. Several establishments have cited safety concerns for both employees and customers.
“With the number of confirmed [coronavirus] cases continuing to climb in Travis County, we don’t think it’s responsible for us to open our doors yet and [create] risk [for] guests and staff,” said Whitney Roberts, cofounder and CEO of The Brewtorium in North Austin, in an email to Community Impact Newspaper.
More than a dozen brewpubs operate in and around Austin, and only one—Treaty Oak Distilling in Southwest Austin—plan to partially open May 1.
Vista Brewing cofounder Karen Killough initially said the brewery would only open its beer garden to members of its Vista Barrel Club, but the brewery reversed course May 1. Vista Brewing will continue selling product to go, but will not open any of its business to the public at this time.
"We have actually decided not to open for onsite service after all, and will maintain our current to go policies until further notice. We received further guidance from authorities and made the change, Killough said in an email to Community Impact Newspaper.
A handful of other brewpubs across the city have announced plans to reopen by mid-May.
Christian Cryder, CEO and founder of Lazarus Brewing Co. on East Sixth Street in Austin, said his brewery is looking to open its patio with limited capacity beginning May 8. The taproom at Lazarus Brewing Co., Cyrder said, will remain closed because of its limited space.
“Right now, we'd love to open tomorrow if we could. But we really value the safety of our staff and patrons, and after going this long without anyone getting sick or needing leave, we don't want to rush things,” Cryder said in an email to Community Impact Newspaper.
Oasis Texas Brewing Company, which sits on the shores of Lake Travis in far west Austin, announced on its social media pages that it is exploring reopening its facilities beginning May 18.
“We will be taking the next few weeks to implement policies and procedures that will provide you and our employees with a safe environment to continue social distancing,” the business wrote on its Facebook page.
Pinthouse Pizza, which has three locations in Austin and Round Rock, announced on its social media pages that its staff has resumed brewing operations at all three locations. On April 30, the local brewpub chain shared on its social media pages that it is partially reopening with curbside pickup and delivery services for food and beer, though Pinthouse Pizza's dining rooms will remain closed to the public.
Some other brewpubs have not disclosed when they plan to reopen their dining rooms to customers but have announced they will continue to sell beer and food to go.
The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. stated on its Instagram page that it will not open May 1 but will continue to sell its beer, pizza and select groceries to go.
“We’re going to continue to do business as we do currently. We’re going to go only and wait and see how this all shakes out," brewer Amos Lowe said in the April 30 Instagram post. "We feel like right now, for us, this is the best thing to do and we’re going to keep doing it until we can properly and safely open our restaurant and have some success."
Abbot’s order only allows restaurants to open dining rooms with 25% capacity May 1, though the governor said bars may be allowed to open May 18.
Under current orders, breweries that operate with manufacturer’s licenses—breweries with traditional taprooms that do not have food kitchens on-site—are considered bars. The earliest those breweries could open their taprooms to the public is May 18.
In Texas, establishments that make more than 51% of their gross receipts on alcohol sales are considered bars and are therefore barred from opening May 1.
Jester King Brewery in Southwest Austin and Oddwood Ales off Manor Road in Central Austin are 51% establishments, according to the social media pages of both breweries. Neither brewery will open May 1.
“In reality, even if we were allowed to reopen on May 1, there’s virtually no way we could," Jester King wrote on its Instagram page. "Restarting our business so as to provide a high level of safety as well as great food, drink, service and hospitality will take time."