When New Belgium chose to close their taprooms in Fort Collins, Colorado and Asheville, North Carolina, on Friday, March 13 in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the team knew that they wanted to do something to help their communities. With much of the United States adopting social distancing practices and shelter-in-place regulations, the future of the hospitality industry is looking grim. Already, craft breweries around the country are shutting down in-house dining options and having to make hard choices to minimize staff cuts.
“We talked to a couple of restaurant and bar people who got laid off are getting only $170 to $350 a week from unemployment. You can’t pay your rent here in Asheville on that,” says Michael Craft, spokesperson for New Belgium. “New Belgium is really proud of being a force for good and we understood that the need was there for a lot of folks who’ve been serving our beer all this time.”
We wish we could take care of everybody. It’s not going to extend to everybody who needs it, but we’re going to do what we can.”
In order to support recently laid-off staff in their communities, the brewery created the New Belgium Brewing Bar & Restaurant Relief Fund, which provides immediate $350 grants to employees of local bars, restaurants, stadiums, and music halls who recently lost their jobs due COVID-19. To help jumpstart the fund, New Belgium pledged an initial $50,000 and agreed to match donations of up an additional $50,000.
“We wish we could take care of everybody. It’s not going to extend to everybody who needs it, but we’re going to do what we can,” Craft says. “I’m delighted to see in 24 hours we’re up to $13,000.”
Anyone who previously worked 20 or more hours per week and did not receive severance to cover their lost income is eligible. Grant applications will remain live until midnight on April 5. In a time when 11 percent of restaurants say they may fold within the 30 days without government intervention, it’s a small but powerful gesture of solidarity.
“I think the amount we’ve raised is a testament to both communities understanding what a lot of people are going through right now,” Craft says. “If you’re having a beer at home, think of it as a way to tip these folks who are gonna need it.”