‘It’s time:’ Florida brewery owners say industry is safe, ready to welcome community back

St. Petersburg area brewery owners tell Gov. Ron DeSantis of coronavirus hardships

More Florida breweries have been able to open in the past month by obtaining food licenses but others are weeks away from closing, craft beer makers told Gov. Ron DeSantis during a discussion in St. Petersburg this week.

The Florida governor, along with state Department of Business and Professional Regulations Secretary Halsey Beshears meet with brewery and pub owners Thursday to discuss the state of breweries and bars, some of the last Florida businesses to reopen from coronavirus closures.

Bars were first closed in April under an executive order from the Florida governor and then allowed to reopen in early June but on June 26, due an increase in COVID-19 cases around the state, the Florida DBPR issued a new emergency order banning on-premises consumption of alcohol by licensed vendors who derive more than 50% of revenue from alcohol sales.

On July 1, the department amended the emergency order eliminating the 50% sales requirement and allowing any business with a food service license to operate, regardless of alcohol sales.

Green Bench Brewing Co., the brewery that hosted the governor on Thursday, reopened Aug. 21 after obtaining a food license. The brewery was closed for 124 days due to the executive order. Co-founder Nathan Stoncipher told the governor local breweries are ready to welcome people back, safely.

“It’s time, we can do it the right way,” he said.

Green Bench head brewer and co-founder Khris Johnson said in the last six months brewery owners have been forced to lay off staff “who have basically become family.”

Three Sisters Brewing CEO Mike Harting said the brewery had 62 employees in March and by July they were down to four. The business was able to bring back on some workers with federal paycheck loans but he said “that’s not a lasting model” for small businesses.

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