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MT breweries, $500M state industry cautiously reopens

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“Town Crier” newsletter – Briefs from the Region (2) – 5/4/20

On May 4, breweries, bars, restaurants, breweries, distilleries and casinos were allowed to reopen following March’s COVID-19 closures, under phase one of Gov. Steve Bullock’s reopening plan, thanks to a successful run of “flattening the curve.” According to the Missoulian, “Annually, Montana’s craft brew industry generates around $500 million and employs more than 3,500 full time workers,” and nationally, small breweries make roughly a third of their nut on draught sales. Those are down 95 percent across the nation, a huge blow that also hit in Montana. The article reports that Sam Hoffmann, who owns Red Lodge Ales, the associated brewery and Last Chance Pub & Cider Mill in Billings—two well known purveyors across the region—says he’s down 85 percent in revenue at Last Chance and about 76 percent at Red Lodge Ales for the month of April, floating by on grocery store sales. KettleHouse Brewing Company, the Missoula-based manufacturer of the widely popular Cold Smoke Scotch Ale, has even permanently closed one of its taprooms due to COVID-19. The Montana Brewers Association notes 75 percent of the state’s breweries reported layoffs. Reopening brings optimism, but caveats abound: “To reopen taprooms, Montana brewers must follow guidelines set by Gov. Steve Bullock, including operating at 50 percent capacity with six feet between tables and no parties larger than six people. Individuals not of the same household must remain physically distanced while waiting in line for beer,” according to the Missoulian.

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