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Craft Brewers Push LA Officials To Let Them Reopen For Outdoor Service

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A beer sampler. (Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr Creative Commons)
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If restaurants and bars with kitchens can reopen for outdoor service, why can't breweries? That's the question Los Angeles beer-makers want to know.

As part of its recnetly launched Save LA Brewers campaign, the L.A. County Brewers Guild is pushing the Board of Supervisors to let craft breweries reopen for outdoor service — with safety precautions and partnerships with food vendors in place.

Laurie Porter, owner of Smog City Brewing in Torrance and a member of the guild, thinks many craft breweries can open safely with outdoor seating.

"We now have a 3,500-square-foot outdoor seating area that was fully social distanced in an open-air space where we purchased umbrellas and we did a lot of preparation for this," Porter says.

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She says Smog City's profits have dropped nearly 70% since the start of the pandemic, when they had to close their taprooms.

In-person tastings and visits are a significant revenue stream for many craft breweries. While some breweries have full kitchens, most don't. The two types of breweries are regulated in slightly different ways and they're regulated differently from bars. This is why you'll often see craft breweries team up with food trucks; they're making sure they follow county regulations about how they can serve customers.

On June 1, officials allowed Los Angeles breweries to open. Then, COVID-19 cases shot up. On June 29, the county ordered breweries without their own kitchens — which means most breweries — to shut down.

"When they shut down the second time, they classified us as bars all of a sudden. They didn't tell us why and they didn't give us an explanation," Steve Leiberman, co-owner of Surfridge Brewing Co. in El Segundo and owner of West 4th and Jane gastropub in Santa Monica, told Santa Monica Daily Press.

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The L.A. County Department of Public Health says the COVID-19 case count and rate of community spread are still too high to allow wineries, bars, and other alcohol-based businesses to reopen.

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