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Brewery taprooms – new guidelines create more reopening opportunities and options

 

New, clarified guidelines for brewery taprooms and “food menu’ requirements

The Washington Brewers Guild worked with the state to hammer out some new guidelines and straightened a few things out. I share the new guidelines below. This is kind of a big deal for brewery taprooms and those of us who like to visit them.

This was just announced this morning and I’ve already heard of at least one brewery taproom that has found a way to reopen its indoor seating area because of it. Read on.

These modified, clarified guidelines should make it easier for some currently closed taprooms to reopen and for brewery taprooms that are still open to once again utilize their inside seating areas. At least, it creates options. By now I think most consumers, and certainly most brewery owners, understand the impact of the latest round of COVID-19 requirements.

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Short version, the latest changes to the state’s phased Safe Start plan saw brewery taprooms lose their status as “restaurants.” Now, until we move to the next phase, a taproom’s ability to remain open hinges on two components: outdoor seating and food menu requirements. This has created a lot of confusion, consternation, and hardship for some breweries.

The Washington Brewers Guild has been working to help breweries navigate these difficult times, as it has done throughout the entire COVID crisis. Their efforts have been admirable and meaningful. (If you are a brewery owner who is not a member of the Washington Brewers Guild, and therefore are not helping support their efforts on your behalf, that’s between you and your beer god.)

Here’s what Guild shared today.

“We’ve been working with the Governor’s office, Liquor & Cannabis Board, State Department of Health and other impacted industry associations to adopt updated guidelines for breweries, wineries, distilleries, and taverns. As a result of this work, the LCB has issued a new guidance document outlining food menu requirements for indoor seating for breweries, wineries, distilleries, and taverns.

These food menu requirements do not apply to outdoor service. No food menu is required for breweries offering only outdoor service.

In order to resume indoor dining, breweries must meet the following requirements:

  • Offer no less than three menu items meeting the food types as required under the Safe Start guidelines (such as sandwiches, salad, soup, pizza, hamburgers, fry orders, or substantial hors d’oeuvres/appetizers)
  • Obtain any required food service permit/license from their local jurisdiction
  • Foods may be fresh, processed, commercially pre-packaged and ready to eat, or frozen
  • No additional handling or preparation is required beyond what is allowed under a brewery, winery, distillery, tavern, or private club licensee’s local food handling permit
  • Breweries, wineries, distilleries, taverns, and private clubs may purchase items from a caterer, licensed food preparation/packaging operation (restaurant) for resale, as long as local health departments allow for this type of sale. Food must be purchased in advance and may not be sold on consignment, and must be sold and provided on site by the licensee
  • Regardless of the food provided, breweries, wineries, distilleries, taverns, and private clubs may only sell alcohol that they are licensed by LCB to sell
  • If a brewery, winery, distillery, tavern, or private club wants to become a Beer/Wine (BW) Restaurant or a Spirits/Beer/Wine (SBW) Restaurant before, during, or after Phase 4, they must submit an application to LCB to convert their license type and must meet the food requirements set forth at WAC 314-02-010(14) (BW Restaurant) or WAC 314-02-035 (SBW Restaurant)
  • These food service requirements are in addition to the COVID-19 restaurant guidance and restrictions, and are set forth in efforts to allow limited non-restaurant liquor license businesses an opportunity to operate with indoor service during Phase 2 and 3 of the governor’s proclamation. The intent is to allow limited operations mitigating the risk of COVID-19 infection spread, by avoiding social gatherings and primarily social drinking outlets
  • These food service requirement will be in place until phase 4 reopening of businesses, and may be modified in response to governor and public health guideline changes

You can find the full industry guidance here

These guidelines do not require you to put in a kitchen or additional equipment, do not require the preparation of foods on-site, nor do they require that you obtain a beer/wine restaurant license. Additionally, customers are not required to purchase a food item.

We developed these guidelines in partnership with the LCB, State Department of Health and other impacted industries’ associations with the goals of meeting the following criteria:

  • Continue to ensure indoor dining environments are controlled seated experiences and discourage congregating and other non-compliant with social distancing behavior by offering a limited food menu consistent with Safe Start guidelines for indoor restaurant dining
  • Provide a clear and simple path forward for compliance for breweries to resume indoor service that is consistent with requirements of beer/wine restaurant licenses
  • Preserve and promote food safety and proper handling of food items

Members looking to resume indoor service should develop a menu of low risk foods and contact your local county health department to ensure you have the proper food handling permit required for the level of food service you will be providing. We are working with the State Department of Health to develop additional guidelines for local health jurisdictions, in efforts to help expedite the local permitting process, where necessary.

We understand that offering a food menu is an additional operational challenge, when you have already been asked to implement significant new compliance measures in your brewery. However, given the current level of covid-19 transmissions in WA and the stalled status of phased re-openings, these new guidelines will give breweries an immediate option to resume indoor dining. We will continue to work with the Governor’s office to advocate that breweries return to our former “restaurant” status within the Safe Start plan.

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