To mask or not to mask? and other important questions needing answers


A rare op-ed.

It was a harsh reality check. News that one of the employees at Fremont Brewing’s Urban Beer Garden tested positive for COVID-19 served as a stark reminder that things are not “back to normal.” I mean, really? They’d just reopened the UBG, then this. Fremont Brewing responded to the unfortunate situation admirably, shutting things back down for a spell, putting the safety of its employees and customers above all else. They had protocols in place for such an eventuality that included being transparent about what was going on, which is important during these pandemic-afflicted days. Read about it here.

Below, I discuss what I think breweries should do regarding their safety protocols. Not what protocols they should follow, but how they should share the information. I also talk about what I think customers should do. In short…

  • Breweries should be public and transparent about their protocols and policies via social media, mailing lists, and any other way they share information with the public.
  • Customers shouldn’t be afraid to ask about the protocols via public forums (social media) and they should voice their opinions. Rational, reasonable, unheated opinions for the brewery decision-makers to consider, not impassioned ranting.
  • A lot of this has to do with masks, but there’s other stuff too.

From an Abundance of Caution to Open Defiance

I have visited a few reopened taprooms in the past couple of weeks. I have heard a lot of reports from others. So, how safe is it out there in Beerland? Is a brewery taproom following state requirements and CDC guidelines or is it skirting the regs? Are they following additional safety protocols? In my limited travels, I have witnessed the extremes. It isn’t always easy to know until you actually arrive at a particular brewery. That stinks.

I know that some people think there is absolutely nothing to worry about and this pandemic crap is a bunch of nonsense. I do not aim to change any minds. Do what you’re going to do, but let people know. Own it. Be transparent. Broadcast your policy by whatever means you have available because…

People Want to Know!

If you are a brewery and you are NOT stating your policies clearly on your website and/or your social media channels, you are doing it wrong.

Consider how the breweries of Ballard handled it. They’re doing it right. The Ballard Brewed Coalition, which consists of all of the breweries in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, released a statement clearly outlining what people should expect when visiting any of the brewery taprooms. Most of them shared the information on social media, via mailing lists, and so on.

Maskers and anti-maskers alike want to know. Obviously, “to mask or not to mask” is just one protocol. In most locations, masks are not required. Still, some folks are only comfortable going to a taproom that does require customers to wear masks. Likewise, some folks don’t want to patronize a business that requires customers to wear masks.

From a customer’s standpoint, not knowing what to expect is frustrating. Whatever your policy, from overly cautious to blatantly defiant, own it. Publicly. Openly. Don’t make someone drive across two counties to find out.

If you are just following the minimum requirements, say it. If you’re skirting or ignoring the regs, say it. If you going above and beyond, say it.

Customers Can Help Too

If you are a customer and you are wondering about a taproom’s protocols, you should ask. You should ask them publicly on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Very likely, others are perusing a brewery’s social media channels looking for the same information.

Quite honestly, there are certain rules that everyone is supposed to be following right now. Group size, occupancy level, and so on. I assume everyone is adhering to at least the minimum. Whatever a taproom is doing, or not doing, let’s work on getting them to tell us. And breweries, for crying out load, let people know about your mask policy!



  1. Knowing is half the battle; communication is key. As of today it would seem we at least all know where we stand on masking up! Cheers I really enjoyed the stance of not making it about judgement but information

  2. Is it really necessary to drink at a brewery/bar wearing a mask and paying $6 a pint during a pandemic/soon to be recession? Best to continue roadside pickup. The breweries that produce mediocre/sub par brews hopefully fall by the wayside and in a few months the real brewers can thrive and we can rejoice thinking of yesteryear and trash bin the masks🍺🏆

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