crowded taproom at Redhook Brewlab.

Washington’s brewery taprooms set sights on June 1st reopening

 

As breweries in Washington prepare to reopen their taprooms, here’s what it will look like.
Hint: it won’t look like that picture above.

Phase 2 of the Safe Start Washington approach to reopening businesses includes brewery taprooms.  We are currently looking at an opening date of June 1, though that date could change depending on how Phase 1 goes. If everyone behaves themselves, and if the ugly numbers continue to improve, June 1 is opening day for our beloved taprooms. Again, it’s a fluid situation, so to speak.

Breweries are just now learning about the requirements and restrictions so they are just now beginning to formulate their plans. In the coming days we will report more and about how breweries plan to proceed. For now, we know this much.

There are some restrictions and protocols that breweries will need to follow in order to operate their taprooms during Phase 2.

  • Provide table seating.
  • No seating allowed at the bar and no congregating in the bar area.
  • Comply with social distancing and health requirements of Phase 2 restaurants and taverns

Phase 2 social distancing and health requirements for restaurants and taverns will include:

  • 50% capacity limit
  • Provide and maintain six-foot distancing of patrons and employees
  • Parties no larger than five people

In addition to the conditions outlined below, brewery taprooms are also considering what the public wants this reopening to look like. In addition to obeying the mandates, they want customers to feel safe and will implement policies accordingly.

How will that look?

Brewery taprooms cannot exceed 50 percent of the room’s occupancy rating. Will this require a “bouncer” at the door monitoring the crowd size and counting heads as people enter and leave? We will see. To accommodate more people, will they limit how long people can stay at the taproom? We will see. Will they only allow paying customers in the taproom (no kids) since each seat is now so precious? We will see.

No congregating or loitering around the bar. Taprooms (like taverns and restaurants) have been instructed to remove barstools and seating from the bar areas and otherwise prevent people from congregating around the bar. If breweries are selling beer via a service station at the bar, obey the personal spacing guidelines. Get your beer and move along.

There is some confusion about whether a brewery must offer table service: My understanding is that they will be allowed to sell beer from a service station at the bar or offer table service. If a brewery taproom is offering table service, be patient. Taprooms will be staffed as necessary, but probably not over-staffed. Remember that lot of brewery taprooms are not accustomed to providing table service at all, so this might be a new operation. Be kind. Be patient.

The tables will be six feet apart. Large communal tables will need to be sectioned off so that seating areas are six feet apart.

No more than five people per table. People will not be allowed to congregate in groups larger than five people. The plan calls for these groups to include only people with whom you have been isolating (same household or part of your “weekly 5”), though I don’t know anyone can or will enforce that. Whatever the case, no birthday parties, no toddler play dates, and no post-practice, team drink-ups.

Other Considerations and Requirements

For the taproom operator, there are other considerations that have a less direct impact on customers. They’ve been told to:

  • Consider how to manage high traffic areas, such as entries/waiting areas for seating/bathrooms/areas where orders are placed.
  • Source masks and gloves for employees.
  • Develop a system for reservations and encourage customers to make reservations in advance of visits.
  • Develop policies for screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Identify areas where you might be able to expand your premise to accommodate social distancing (i.e. additional outdoor seating areas) and begin working with LCB licensing to approve those changes.

That last bullet point is important. Expanded outdoor seating. I’ve talked to business owners who are exploring their options. This includes converting parking areas and other outdoor spaces into beer gardens. We may see more of that. Cheers to the Liquor and Cannabis Board for loosening some red tape on this one.

Conclusion

The Washington Brewers Guild is working closely with the Governor’s office and the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board as these phased reopenings unfolds. Things are still being discussed. There’s a lot of “we will see” involved right now.

It’s going to be different, and it may not be business as usual, but it is better than not being open at all.

Let’s all get through Phase 2 safely before we start to talk about Phase 3, okay?

You can read all about the Safe Start Washington phased reopening plan here

https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/SafeStartWA_4May20_1pm.pdf

 

2 comments

  1. Is “provide table seating” the same as “provide table service”? We’ve always had table seating, you just have to come back to the bar for another beer.

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