Updated at 1:57 p.m.
Sacramento’s active bar and nightlife scene could take a hit in the coming weeks as owners shutter their doors to combat COVID-19. Both Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg are asking these establishments to temporarily stop serving patrons in an attempt to slow the spread of the illness.
Bars, clubs, wineries and brewpubs are subject to the guidance, but restaurants are permitted to stay open at half capacity.
The California Craft Brewers Association defines “brewpubs” as breweries with restaurants. The Association said in a statement that it believes “brewpubs will be allowed to stay open” as long as they reduce capacity by 50 percent
As of Sunday night, Oak Park Brewing Company’s owner said they planned to stay open as a restaurant, at the reduced capacity.
Urban Roots Brewing and Smokehouse, which serves a full food menu, said on Twitter that it will remain open this week, but it will primarily offer a pickup program for food and canned/bottled beer ordered online.
Hi everyone — Urban Roots is still open and operating with normal hours today and will continue to remain open this week however there will be changes in our operations. (1/3)— Urban Roots® Brewing (@UrbanRootsBeer) March 16, 2020
Industry representatives are also confused about whether the guidance is voluntary or not.
Both Newsom and Steinberg have implied that the change is technically voluntary, but both officials have threatened enforcement action if businesses don’t comply.
"St. Patrick's Day is Tuesday night and I would expect to see those bars closed. Period, end of story,” Steinberg said Sunday. “If that doesn't happen, that may mean that there needs to be more serious measures."
Bars and breweries across the region are figuring out a plan B. The California Craft Brewers Association said breweries can still manufacture and self-distribute beer, conduct off-site sales and deliver beer directly to customers.
Bike Dog Brewing is closing its West Sacramento taproom, but will offer to-go beer in crowlers and four-packs.
In this time of social distancing, we will be offering beers to go available for pick up from either taproom. Order online and your beer will be ready in 1 hour for pickup. 4-packs are available immediately. Crowlers will be available this Tuesday 🍻https://t.co/hHsQcJfpgh pic.twitter.com/F6ATVr2Avd— Bike Dog Brewing (@BikeDogBrewing) March 15, 2020
Yolo Brewing Company in West Sacramento is also closing its taproom. General manager Peter Halldorf said they can survive financially for a while, but an extended closure could become a struggle.
“Margins are thin, it’s very tough to continue working when you are losing your main source of income, which was over-the-bar sales,” he said.
He noted that their second income stream — bars across the region that sell their beer — is also drying up.
“We have restaurants that are still open in their limited capacity, so we still have some people buying beer from us, but that’s not enough.”
Halldorf and other beer and wine industry workers are asking patrons to buy gift cards online during the shutdown to help businesses stay afloat. Steinberg made a similar plea.
Perhaps the most affected by the nightlife shutdowns are the employees of drinking establishments.
Melody Thebeau at SacYard Community Tap House in Sacramento says she’s extending employees’ three days of annual sick leave to six days in light of the shutdown. She’s also helping them apply for unemployment and encouraging them to lean on their 401K savings, which she says is a rarity in the beer industry.
“We’re concerned about their well-being in terms of their ability to pay their rent, and so forth,” Thebeau said. “We have no idea what the repercussions are gonna be, including the anxiety of the financial impact to them. Some of our employees, this is their only job.”
The city is also establishing a hotline where small businesses and workers can reach out for help with unemployment and other paperwork. The Sacramento City Council voted Friday to create a $1 million economic relief package for local businesses such as restaurants, stores and day cares. It may also provide zero-interest loans of up to $25,000.
In addition, Steinberg said Sunday that the city is working with the state Legislature and the governor’s office on a separate package to go beyond the $1 million.
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