Alcohol brands, distilleries and breweries have had to get creative during the coronavirus pandemic, as self-isolation and state restrictions prevent many from operating business as usual. While some brands and businesses may have to close temporarily, many are offering unique virtual experiences, trying to maximize delivery opportunities or pivoting to help manufacture desperately needed supplies for the frontlines of COVID-19.
Wineries Get Creative As Social Distancing Impacts Business
Most state governments have issued requirements for people to self-isolate, which has severely impacted restaurants, bars and similar businesses, including tasting rooms in the wine valleys of California. After the last several years of devastating fires, many in wine country were already struggling prior to the most recent closings. However, winemakers throughout California are trying to stay positive and pivoting their businesses in ways that still serve their consumers safely.
“My main goal as a person is to take care of others,” said Steven Mirassou of Livermore Wines. “We are fundamentally a hospitality business, and we want to do that [hospitality] in a safe and responsible way and hopefully add a little bit of joy to people’s lives through wine.”
Many vineyards are now implementing no-touch delivery of their wines and offering steep discounts for online purchases. Some vineyards are even coordinating virtual tastings. Guests are invited to go online and buy the six-pack tasting kit that will be discussed during the tasting. St. Supery winemakers, who are hosting tastings on Zoom and Facebook Live, hope their virtual tastings will offer “responsible alternatives” until oenophiles can be together again.
One More Call For Alcohol As Some States Limit Access
There has been some debate about whether or not liquor stores are considered essential during the coronavirus quarantines. In some places, this debate intersects with laws about whether alcohol can be shipped directly to consumers, which isn’t permitted in every state. Recently, Kentucky introduced a bill that allows the shipment of alcohol from both in and out of state to be sent directly to consumers. On the other side of the coin, Pennsylvania and Virginia, which have state-run liquor stores, have severely limited access to alcohol during the coronavirus. Limiting alcohol business could effectively shutter local distilleries and breweries that can’t or don’t sell their products in grocery stores, either because, like Pennsylvania, liquor stores have closed, or, as in Virginia, they aren’t allowing any delivery or curbside pickup.
While brands try to stay nimble during this unprecedented time, particularly with the open-ended timeline, insiders believe policy should follow suit, “In an era where you can get nearly any product under the sun delivered to your door within a few hours, it makes little sense to exclude alcohol,” said C. Jarrett Dieterle, an alcohol policy expert with the R Street Institute, a public policy research organization. Adding, “Even in a pandemic-free world, allowing alcohol delivery would be a win-win that helps both producers and consumers.”
In some states, third-party delivery of alcohol is allowed, and many restaurants have also been given special dispensation during coronavirus to sell alcoholic beverages with to-go food orders.
Alcohol Brands Have Converted Their Facilities To Make Hand Sanitizer
When the public started to catch on that coronavirus was serious, hand sanitizer became a precious commodity and was soon nearly impossible to find. The hand sanitizer shortage led to some confusion about adequate substitutes for the essential item, with Tito’s vodka garnering attention as a possible substitute. On March 22nd, the brand clarified, saying that, although Tito’s is not hand sanitizer, they would begin making hand sanitizer to distribute for free. “While we advise that you cannot use our vodka as a hand sanitizer, our distillery has been working hard to get all of the pieces in place to begin production on 24 tons of hand sanitizer that adheres to industry and governmental guidance,” said the popular vodka brand.
Other alcohol brands also stepped in to make hand sanitizer, including Bacardi, Anheuser-Busch, Pernod Ricard, BrewDog, Gervasi Vineyard and Eight Oaks Farm Distillery. Brands that step up now and help in meaningful ways can build tremendous amounts of goodwill among consumers and likely be remembered when life returns to normal.
Like so many businesses around the world, there are many bars, taprooms, vineyards and liquor brands that will struggle during this unprecedented time. By staying agile and focusing on positive marketing and authentic corporate social responsibility, many of these businesses will weather the storm and thrive in the long run.
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