How The Beverage Industry Is Managing The COVID-19 Public Health Crisis
It is officially hot in the Southwest! Temperatures here at RS&E headquarters in Durango, Colorado are simmering at a not very comfortable 95 degrees today. I am trying to plan ways to manage dinner later this evening without having to (a) turn on a stove or, (b) fire up a grill. I have come to what I feel is a win-win solution: patronizing one of our many delicious restaurants in Durango for a "grab and go" meal, followed by a trip to our favorite beverage shop to pick up a bottle of wine and perhaps some ready-to-drink beverages for the spouse...with a face covering and plenty of social distancing while I do so, or course! Safety first.
Because we are still in a "safer at home" posture in Durango (and all around the country, as rates of active COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket from coast to coast), dining out and having a great beverage while sitting in a restaurant is a long-gone fantasy. Some establishments have opened up at limited capacity of no more than 50 percent, which affords an opportunity to dine out for those who are comfortable doing so.
The reality of the situation is that this current public health challenge is far from over. My guess is that I am not alone in this sentiment. Many individuals have expressed concern at not only venturing out, but the discomfort of being out and about given the sheer number of folks who are venturing out without exercising some degree of caution for themselves or others. This disconnect gives a lot of people pause, especially if loved ones fall into a high-risk category.
This is a dire situation for those in the wine and beverage industry. As the summer months march on, a number of smaller, local enterprises that sold cases of wine and beer to graduates, wedding parties, family reunions, and July 4th revelers are seeing zero sales in this space due to the various public health orders in place across the country. This may continue on to include lucrative sales for holiday parties, sporting events, and alumni association get-togethers across the country throughout the fall and winter. Although wine, beer, and spirit sales are seeing record-breaking profits overall, that bounty is not being shared equally across restaurants, bars, and liquor stores.
In Colorado, restaurants are getting creative. Many establishments in Durango allow customers to take signature drinks, bottles of wine, or cases of beer with them...along with a stern warning about not consuming your beverage in transit (thanks Colorado Revised Statute §42-4-1305!). Restaurants are now permitted to occupy sidewalks and the vast majority of Main Street in our historic downtown has closed to one lane to allow restaurants to further expanded outdoor seating to accommodate more visitors and revenue, thanks in large part to a nimble City Council and business community. Other regions of the country have not been so fortunate, with restaurants not being able to serve guests outside of 'to go' orders at all. That limitation of revenue may be the difference between a "temporarily closed" sign and a "building for lease" sign.
So why the disconnect? With so many venues oscillating between public health orders that change as the outbreak ebbs and explodes, why are some seeing an alcohol sales bonanza while others are not experiencing any benefits at all? A great article by Joseph Micallef for Forbes Magazine explains some of the mechanics at play here. While we continue to navigate our "new normal" during a pandemic with no end in sight, learning a bit more about how we can support and uplift our industry is of critical importance.
So cheers, everyone. Enjoy a glass of something amazing, and if possible, see if you can support your local venues by ordering a beverage to go. Their livelihoods may quite literally
depend on it.