Far from tapped: Local breweries ready to rebound after pandemic closures

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The craft beer industry, booming in recent years, took an expected drop in business as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

But local breweries in the Richmond area told 8News they’re not ready to kick the keg on the business just yet. While keeping the normal flow of business during the coronavirus pandemic is difficult, brewers told 8News’ Digital Reporter Tyler Thrasher that it’s not detrimental.

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At the Center of the Universe Brewing Company, co-founder Chris Ray said they relied on restaurants to sell their product. Restaurant closures pushed them into an online ordering system before Phase One allowed for outdoor seating.

“Our revenues are not what they used to be, and it is definitely not sustainable to operate like this — but right now, things are going okay. It all depends on how long this situation lasts,” Ray said.

Ray says despite this setback, his business is in a positive position to move forward, as they are now operating under Phase 3 guidelines set by Governor Ralph Northam.

“We do what we can to make people feel normal,” Ray said. “That’s the hardest thing is that people want that sense of ‘this is what I used to do… it feels good,’ and we are trying to provide that and still stay safe.”

At Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, brewmaster Patrick Murtaugh remains optimistic, although he says the comparison of 2020’s sales to last year is drastic.

“It wasn’t close to where we were at this point last year — in terms of sales,” Murtaugh said. “It was definitely a hard hit for us. On top of that, we lost pretty much all of our restaurant draft business.”

Lack of business and low sales led to the disposal of gallons upon gallons of beer.

“We had to destroy a ton of our beer that was sitting in tanks with nowhere to go,” Murtaugh said. “Really difficult for the industry as a whole, and definitely for those breweries in Virginia. It’s kind of a ‘wait and see’ sort of thing.'”

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Murtaugh was positive that Hardywood would end up being OK but as a precaution, he told 8News the brewery will still abide by Phase Two guidelines.

“In terms of keeping our customers and our staff safe, we thought the best decision has been to maintain our patios being open without opening indoors,” Murtaugh said.

Should Virginia once again be placed on lockdown by order of Governor Ralph Northam, Ray and Murtaugh both say they have a plan in place — whether that is taking the situation day-by-day, or managing money for employee financial security.

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