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  • Writer's pictureMaya

Breweries to Allow Outdoor Seating

When foodservice businesses recommenced sit-down service, many started seating guests outside as a creative way to host a crowd without compromising social distance and customer safety. Now that many states are embarking on the next stage of their reopening journeys, more nonessential businesses are reopening. This includes breweries that have been waiting for the chance to serve delicious craft beer again ever since the first wave of COVID-19 hit the U.S. in March. They’re taking the idea of outdoor seating and employing it for themselves.

The reopening procedures for breweries and bars are changing. Exact specifications vary depending on the state, city and locale of the brewery, but they all must comply with proper social distance as we continue to try and calm the spread of COVID-19 and avoid a massive second wave of the virus.

The trouble is, breweries aren’t all reopening at once and there’s no official guideline to direct them through it. Fortunately for some, they can use those that reopened before them as a learning tool, watching what they do to see what works, what doesn’t, and what can be improved. For example, Pennsylvania, which just started their “green phase” of reopening on June 26th (which allows bars and breweries to offer sit-down services again), can look at what states like Georgia did as a roadmap to success.

As long as they reduce capacity, many breweries can freely reopen as long as they follow all the traditional guidelines for preventing infection: Wear masks, stay six feet apart, and set a limit on table sizes. Pro-tip: Many limit parties to five to ten guests maximum, depending on COVID-19 cases in your state.


Outdoor Seating Areas

Shutdowns put a lot of burden on breweries, who no longer had any legal avenue for selling their wares because they couldn’t sell cocktails off-premises and people weren’t allowed inside. However the laws slowly changed.

First, a myriad of states legalized takeout and delivery sales of alcohol, including New York, California, Colorado, Arizona, Florida and more. Thus breweries resumed their sale of craft beer via online stores and takeout services; many restaurants served food and drinks from their bars alongside their usual menu. After that, some states phased into their later reopening stages which let breweries serve customers in person again.

Outdoor seating areas are still relatively new concepts for a lot of breweries. Although some had outdoor seating areas already ready for use, others are still piloting setups that give them a workaround for legal regulations that mandate reduced capacity inside buildings. All around the country, restaurants and breweries alike have closed down streets so they can set up tables and chairs out there. In Chicago, it’s as simple as applying for a permit through local channels and paying $150 for the privilege. Bars and breweries are strongly encouraged to partner with food trucks and other food service establishments if they put tables outside, but it’s not mandatory; although in Chicago, bars that didn’t serve food had to close down in March so it’s a safe bet to partner with them now in case a second wave comes through and shuts things down again for a long time. In California, on the other hand, bars were licensed to reopen as early as May if they had a partner in food service to operate alongside.

For those that didn’t have an outdoor seating area already set up and couldn’t expand to the street, they had to get creative. Some breweries set up small seating areas outside their entrances, right on the sidewalk; others made do with converting sections of their parking lots into guest areas and set up a tent to protect customers from the elements. This kind of creativity varies by geographical area and each specific, individual situation.

Chicago imposed additional limits: Customers can stay for two hours max, breweries can sell alcohol on-premises until 11PM and end takeout and delivery of cocktails at 9PM. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania the rules are much different: Customers must make reservations in advance, only stay for an hour and a half maximum and wear a mask at all times when they aren’t seated. Additionally, Pennsylvanian breweries are only open for a limited time during the day.

These differences highlight the importance of a national manual for safe reopening which extends past guidelines; we need comprehensive legislation that details mandatory policies and enforces them, ensuring the continued health and safety of customers and service workers alike.


Keep Customers Interested

As they get back in business, breweries want a smart way to keep customers interested. Some decorate their protective tents with lights and other touches that add ambiance, making these outdoor seating areas more beautiful and inviting. Some added barricades and barriers to better contain and control these areas, as well as providing some measure of security for the customers. Others simply make their outdoor areas bigger or more aesthetically pleasing in other ways.

Many breweries have also made changes to draw in new customers and garner attention for their reopenings. Seven Sirens, a brewhouse in Pennsylvania, moved their equipment in-house so that they could creating new beers throughout partial reopenings and limited supply chains. They also rent out space above the brewery now, calling it their Air BedNBeer—a charming take on Airbnbs for renters coming into the city for a few days. Its convenient location above the brewery itself is sure to bring in a bit of extra business.

Hop Hill entices their customers with live events. All over the country, breweries like this one are drumming up business by hosting bands, setting up outdoor games like big Jenga and cornhole, and hosting a trivia night to draw in a crowd. Events encourage people to relax and enjoy their time outside, but they also brighten up the atmosphere and add a touch of uniqueness that help these breweries stand out from the rest.

Of course creative endeavors like these are nothing without proper promotion. Breweries need to give regular updates on social media about events taking place as well as any other news regarding their business.

More and more breweries are hosting live events. With so many recent and upcoming summer holidays, they’re pushing the boundaries with summer deals and holiday special events. Breweries around the country are trying new things, revamping old ideas and operating at different levels of capacity depending on where their state is in the reopening process.


Technology leads the way

Breweries have to contend with the struggles of reopening just like so many others in the hospitality industry. As as result, a lot of them turn to technology to assuage fears and new health regulations; contactless payment is the name of the game.

People like quick, one-touch ordering and the ability to complete transactions on their own mobile device; it reduces the potential spread of germs from face-to-face contact with cashiers or sharing tech with other customers. Advanced point of sale systems are also rising in popularity because they make to-go orders, curbside pickup and delivery easier, which the industry needs while it gets back up and running. Contactless payment and point of sale systems, like the capabilities offered by eatOS, are not only advanced technologies that boost the bottom line on a regular day but they also offer the self-sufficiency that supports customer health and safety across the board.

As breweries reopen, they’re awash with renovated exteriors, adjusted marketing plans and the technology that can help them thrive is this new, tenuous environment. As more and more breweries allow greater capacity around the country, they’ll continue to learn from each other, both good and bad, as we all emerge into new phases of the reopening process together.


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