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Do we? don’t we?

Our brewery shop is allowed to remain open under the latest COVID19 restrictions. And I'm just not sure how I feel about that.

On Monday the UK went into lockdown with only essential shops allowed to remain open. This was sad, scary and right. On Wednesday they qualified this and added ‘brewery shops’ to the list alongside takeaways and bike shops…

Why did they do this?
Was it because us brewery shops are low risk?
Was it to help small businesses keep afloat?
Was it because if you can buy beer from an off-licence or a supermarket then it would be unfair to stop brewery shops?
I dunno.

But how do I feel about it?Like most things at the moment, I feel horrible about it. I have been crisis planning for the past two weeks, making all sorts of humble and unpleasant phone calls in an effort to get my head around how we can get the business through this, whilst being as positive I can for my staff. The COVID19 pandemic has hit us in the very same week that we expected business to pick up, after running on empty for the winter.

We closed the brewery shop last week and it will stay closed. But because of the layout of the brewery, we did open up a Drive-Thru collection point, so people can still buy beer from us. If you think we will make big bucks from this, you are very wrong.It means we can sell some of our stock instead of pouring it away, and it has given us at the brewery something to distract us and focus on, instead of despairing.
We have always followed government guidelines and then gone beyond them, and have created a way for people to collect beer without getting out of their cars, and only after we have sterilised the package in between hands. It is so much safer than any supermarket or off-licence. We have done everything we can to reduce risks for our customers, as well as my wife and I, and whoever is isolated in the back room helping fill beer.

But is it as safe as not doing it at all?

No, it isn’t.
And that’s what I am struggling with.

But I have been overwhelmed with the response we have had from the local people supporting us, and the ones I have seen do not seem to be the typ who flout the restrictions and head to Snowdonia. These people can buy booze from anywhere, and although I think our beer is great, it is still just beer and not some magic elixir. So why all the support?

I think it is because we are seen as not being beaten by the virus, creating an idea that allows people to have some sense of normality, maybe a bit of fun in these pretty weird and goddamn awful times we are in right now. And these are big things that can make a big difference.

Is beer essential? Many would smash their tankards down on the table and shout ‘yes!’, but no, of course it isn’t. No more than takeaway chips, curries and pizzas are essential. But right now, the government wants to slow the spread of CV19 down without the country completely grinding to a halt, and enabling people to enjoy some level of normality in all of this. If their plan doesn’t work then they will change it, or if I see our Drive-Thru as creating more risk than benefit, then I will stop.

In the meantime we will do all we can to keep everyone safe whilst keeping their spirits up, and for now, I am ok with it.

Phil Halls
25 March 2020

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