$10 million grant program approved by Board of Supervisors
By Sam Catanzaro
Will a $10 million grant program be enough to help LA County breweries who say they have been unfairly shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
On September 15, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a new $10 million grant program requested by Supervisor Janice Hahn to help breweries and other small businesses that have remained closed or restricted by LA County health officer orders despite being allowed to open under the State’s health order.
“I have heard from so many local breweries that are struggling to stay in business while following the County’s health order,” Hahn said. “With our case numbers on the decline, I am hopeful it will be safe for them to reopen soon. But in the meantime, I want to get them the lifeline they need to make it through this crisis.”
Although breweries in Tier 1 counties have been allowed to open under the State’s health order, Los Angeles County’s health officer order has kept many local breweries that do not qualify as restaurants closed for on-site service to slow the spread of the virus.
This has been a source of frustration for many local breweries, including the Westside’s Santa Monica Brew Works. In a Facebook post from August 26, the brewery noted that not only have they been forced to close, but the County also has not allowed them to partner with third-party food vendors and remain open
“LA County’s decision to prohibit breweries from partnering with third-party food vendors pursuant to an ABC-issued Catering License was made hastily without understanding what a brewery is and how it operates. We implore the Board of Supervisors to align the classification of LA County breweries with breweries throughout the State pursuant to California’s health order,” reads the post, which implores the County to reinstate the ability of breweries to operate pursuant to an ABC-issued Catering License. “Los Angeles is the ONLY county in California preventing breweries from partnering with food trucks and caterers. Some of our peers who are brewpubs with full kitchens and outdoor space have had the privilege of being classified in the same way as restaurants and remain open, but two-thirds of LA Brewers Guild members are shut down based on the County’s decision. But for the most part, the County’s decision deters patrons from going to breweries only in LA County as many of them are instead driving to breweries in Ventura and Orange County to enjoy craft beer.”
County officials told City News Service, however, breweries are still classified “high-risk” businesses for the spread of COVID-19, particularly among younger residents, and therefore cannot be allowed to reopen.
The new grant program is included in a supplemental coronavirus relief fund spending plan being approved by the Board of Supervisors. The funding comes from Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding allocated to Los Angeles County by the federal government.
Accoridng to the county, under the new grant program priority would be given to those small businesses like breweries subject to restrictions that are more stringent than those required by State health officer order. Other such businesses include wineries, family entertainment centers and card rooms.
According to the Long Beach Post, grant amounts will be set by the number of employees and production output, among other factors. Considering LA County is home to hundreds of breweries, wineries and other qualifying businesses, grant amounts could be small.