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Alexandra S. Clough
Craft Distiller Survey Findings Reveal Grim Future for Nation’s 2,000 Small Distillers
Washington, DC (March 23, 2020) – Amid tasting room closures and layoffs, these small, independent businesses – which directly support U.S. agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and hospitality — are facing a new wave of uncertainty due to the imminent threat of COVID-19.
Still, even in spite of this difficulty, the craft distilling community continues to rally, with 75 percent of distilleries reporting they are ramping up efforts to help alleviate the national shortage of hand sanitizers and sanitizing solutions. From local hospitals to the Department of Defense, ACSA’s membership has been flooded with requests for help, and over the past week, the trade association has worked closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for guidance and oversight.
A survey of more than 150 craft distillers found the following:
- 87% of craft distillery tasting rooms have closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
- 38% of these distilleries closed their tasting rooms proactively, while 47%
were forced to shutter by government mandate.
- Almost 60% of distilleries have already laid off or furloughed staff, while the remaining respondents noted they would likely do so in the coming weeks.
- Though doors are closed, nearly 70% of craft distilleries are still producing spirits for the time being.
- Without government stimulus, 67% of distilleries will be forced to close
within three months; 32% of those respondents will only last a month or less.
- More than 75% of craft distillers plan to produce hand sanitizer in an effort to support the national shortage.
“Our membership – much like our colleagues in hospitality – is grieving, and our community of craft distilleries are facing a potential industry-wide collapse,” said Margie A.S. Lehrman, CEO, ACSA. “And even in the face of all of this, we continue to hear of selfless stories of our industry rallying to support their communities at home, many of whom are by pivoting to produce hand-sanitizer during the global shortage. Still, our organization is working around the clock to call for immediate federal and state support, and we will not rest until we are able to provide relief.”
These grim perspectives are corroborated firsthand by ACSA’s leadership. Chris Montana, President of ACSA and Owner and Head Distiller of DuNord Craft Distilling in MN noted, “As a small, independent distillery owner in Minnesota, the devastating impact of COVID-19 on my business is very, very real, and without federal support, our survival is in jeopardy. We have already closed our cocktail room to the public and laid off more than half of our staff. With no end in sight we will almost certainly be forced to further reduce our workforce and potentially halt our production. These actions have been painful, but the long term looks far more ominous. On behalf of our community of more than 2,000 independent craft distilleries across the country, I am certain that without significant, immediate intervention, and a long- term commitment to assistance, we will face a devastating future.”
The American Craft Spirits Association is the only national registered non-profit trade association representing the U.S. craft spirits industry. Its mission is to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers, and membership in ACSA is open to anyone.
ACSA is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the eligible voting members of the Association. Voting members must be independent, licensed distillers (DSPs) annually removing fewer than 750,000 proof gallons from bond (the amount on which a Federal Excise Tax is paid.) For information about ACSA, call 202-669-3661.