January – March 12, 2021 – COVID-19 – Updates

Effective Monday, March 22nd, the entire state will move to Phase 3 of the Healthy Washington reopening plan.

During Phase 3, breweries and other eating and drinking establishments are permitted to offer indoor service at 50% capacity. Additionally, the cut-off for alcohol service will move to midnight.

We’re working with the Governor’s office on updating the Phase 3 guidance, including any potential changes to table party sizes and potential use of bar seating. The guidance will be available next week.

What we do know now is that social distancing, and mask wearing (while not consuming beverages or food) will still be required. The new and improved on-site food requirements will continue into Phase 3.

Phase 3 will also include some new opportunities for events and spectator sports. Events must follow Phase 3 “Weddings, Funerals, and Events” guidance (TBD) and will be limited to 50% capacity and capped at 400 people maximum. Larger venue events, including sports venues, can open at 25% occupancy or up to 9,000 people, whichever is less. Next week, we will have more information for you from the LCB on Special Occasion License events COVID-19 policies.

Under the updated plan, the metrics of counties, not regions, will be individually evaluated every three weeks. The evaluations will occur on Mondays with any possible changes taking effect Friday. Large and small counties will have different sets of criteria. If any county fails one or more of the metrics below, that county will move down one phase.

The metrics to remain in Phase 3 are as follows:

Larger Counties:

  • New COVID cases per 100,000 population per 14 days less than 200
  • New COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 population per 7 days less than 5

Smaller Counties (Less than 50,000 people):

  • New COVID cases over 14 days less than 30
  • New COVID hospitalizations over 7 days less than 3

If at any point the statewide ICU capacity exceeds 90 percent, all counties will return to Phase 2 status.

Yesterday, Governor Inslee also announced a revised start date for all WA residents that fall into Phase 1B – Tier 2. Phase 1B – Tier 2 eligibility will now begin on Wednesday March 17.

As food processors, some employees involved on the production side of the brewery will qualify for eligibility in Phase 1B – Tier 2. This includes production employees engaged in activities that meet the following criteria:

  • Congregate agriculture–specifically those who work and/or live in a congregate setting interacting with a high volume of co-workers over extended periods of time (i.e., >3 hours in 24 hour day). Relevant roles are more likely to include crop selection, production and packaging vs. equipment maintenance
  • Congregate food processing–specifically those who work and/or live in a congregate setting interacting with high volume of co-workers over extended periods of time (i.e.,>3 hours in 24 hour day).

The WA Department of Health has an online tool where you can check your vaccine eligibility. You can find the full framework for vaccine allocation and prioritization here.

Call To Action for Essential Brewery Employees:

We are very disappointed that the essential employees working in brewery taprooms and local restaurants have not been included with other essential workers on the prioritization schedule. We will continue to advocate for these employees to be included with the other essential workers being prioritized for vaccine eligibility. We encourage you to add your name to this petition to the Governor, requesting that hospitality workers be prioritized with other essential workers for vaccines.

This week, Congress passed and President Biden signed a $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan. We want to thank the Brewers Association for their hard work to ensure that breweries were include in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, included in the bill. Key provisions of that fund that will be available to small breweries are:

  • Creates a $28.6 billion fund which will provide grants to hospitality businesses including breweries
  • Allows businesses with fewer than 20 locations to apply for grants covering the difference between 2019 and 2020 revenues
  • $10 million is the maximum grant amount a business can apply for
  • The grant money can be used to cover payroll and benefits (excluding employee compensation exceeding $100,000/year), mortgage (no prepayments), rent (no prepayments), utilities, maintenance, supplies (including protective equipment and cleaning materials), food, operational expenses, covered supplier costs, as defined by sick leave, and any other expenses deemed essential by the administrator
  • $5 billion of the $28.6 billion total is reserved for restaurants with less than $500,000 in gross receipts in 2019 for the first 60 days of the program
  • Unlike some of the existing loan/grant programs, businesses that opened in 2020 will also be able to apply for grants to help cover the cost of eligible expenses incurred within that calendar year
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) will administer the program, but it will not go into effect immediately. The agency needs time to organize how they will implement the grants. The SBA is taking input from stakeholders and has been in contact with the Brewers Association

For more info on the other components of the American Rescue Plan, including extension of the employees retention credit and expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program, read this update from Brewers Association Director of Federal Affairs, Katie Marisic.

Governor Inslee announced details for the next tier of vaccine eligibility, Phase 1 B2. Workers engaged in specific types of activity within food processors and agricultural worker occupations will be eligible as soon as March 22 (tentatively and subject to availability).

As food processors and agricultural processors, some brewery employees involved in the production side of operations will qualify for eligibility in Phase 1 B2. Phase 1 B2 would include employees engaged in activities that meet the following criteria:

  • Congregate agriculture–specifically those who work and/or live in a congregate setting interacting with a high volume of co-workers over extended periods of time (i.e., >3 hours in 24 hour day). Relevant roles are more likely to include crop selection, production and packaging vs. equipment maintenance
  • Congregate food processing–specifically those who work and/or live in a congregate setting interacting with high volume of co-workers over extended periods of time (i.e.,>3 hours in 24 hour day)

We continue to work with the Governor’s office and Department of Health to determine when employees involved in essential work in other areas of the brewery, who do not meet the above criteria, will be eligible and will provide information as soon as it becomes available.

You can sign up here to receive eligibility notifications from the Department of Health. For more information on the vaccine eligibility schedule and where to find a vaccine, visit here.

On February 28, 2021, Governor Inslee signed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB 5272) into law. This law waives annual renewal fees for 12 months (April 1, 2021 to March 30, 2022). Relevant license types for breweries in this legislation include: microbrewery, domestic brewery, wine/beer restaurant, wine/beer/spirits restaurant, tavern, and caterers.

Additionally, licensees that temporarily closed between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, and did not pay a renewal fee during that time, will not have to pay an additional fee in order to become an active licensee again.

Please contact Licensing Customer Service at the WSLCB for questions about the above information: (360) 664-1600 – Option 1, or at customerservicelicensing@lcb.wa.gov.

On 2/25/2021, Governor Inslee announced a statewide “pause” in any regional phase movement. For at least two weeks, all regions will remain in Phase 2. The Governor’s office and Department of Health are assessing the data and if the numbers look good, they may consider increasing occupancy to 50% in Phase 2. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on any changes to occupancy levels. Phase 3 guidelines are currently under development and details are not yet available.

We are very pleased to report that HB 1480, which would codify and extend the timeline for the LCB’s temporary COVID-19 allowances, cleared the House yesterday by a vote of 86 – 12. This bill is a high priority for our guild and for our partners in the restaurant and bar industry.

The bill is necessary so that licensees can continue curbside, beer/wine/spirits to go, deliveries, and other COVID-19 related allowances. While the LCB has been a fantastic partner in allowing this flexibility since last March, this bill gives these policies needed backing in state law.

The bill will now go to the Senate, where it will need to receive another hearing and vote before it can be signed into law.

In case you missed it, the LCB released its Winter Newsletter earlier this week. This issue covers topics including rulemaking activity, an intro to the new Enforcement Chief, outdoor dining and alterations, special occasion license COVID-19 policies, and more.

This week, the Biden-Harris Administration and the Small Business Administration announced five changes to the Paycheck Protection Program to make relief more accessible to small employers:

  • A 14-day, exclusive PPP loan application period for businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees, which started Wednesday, Feb. 24
  • Allows sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals to receive more financial support by revising the PPP’s funding formula for these categories of applicants
  • Eliminates an exclusionary restriction on PPP access for small business owners with prior non-fraud felony convictions, consistent with a bipartisan congressional proposal
  • Eliminates PPP access restrictions on small business owners who have struggled to make federal student loan payments by eliminating federal student loan debt delinquency and default as disqualifiers to participating in the PPP
  • Ensures access for non-citizen small business owners who are lawful U.S. residents by clarifying that they may use Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to apply for the PPP

All changes (minus the 14-day loan window for small businesses, which is in effect now) will be implemented by the first week of March.

This week, we confirmed with the State Department of Health that the mask mandate still applies to all employees and patrons, regardless of vaccination status. All employees and patrons must wear a mask at all times when not seated and eating or drinking.

With all regions now in Phase 2, there are new opportunities for live entertainment and music at breweries. Breweries must follow the Theater and Performing Arts Guidance for live performances and trivia/patron participation activities, and comply with all industry guidance for eating and drinking establishments.

 Here’s a helpful primer we received from the Governor’s office:

  •  Live entertainment includes musical soloists, djs, musical groups, trivia, and other spoken-word, theatrical, or dance performances
  • Anytime a live entertainer(s) is on-site to perform, you must first identify whether the entertainment will occur indoors or outdoors. Open-Air seating areas will fall under the guidelines for outdoor performances
  • For music, whenever a vocalist is present, follow the “Choral/Vocal/Opera…” section
  • The distance between performers and audience members must be at least 20 feet
  • A solo singer without a facemask must be 15 feet away from other musicians. Best practices include using a plexiglass 3-sided barrier and disinfecting after every use
  • If there are multiple singers, all singers are required to wear a three-layer surgical mask; maintain at least 9 feet of physical distance from others; and limit the total number of singers to 15
  • Instrumentals: all non-wind/brass instruments space six feet apart from each other; wind/brass must be spaced nine feet apart with a bell cover. All non-wind/brass players must wear a face covering throughout the performance, wind and brass players will remove their coverings when playing
  • Any indoor performance can only last for 45 minutes before a 30-minute break. Total performance time may not exceed two hours
  • The indoor and outdoor capacity limits differ between Restaurants/Taverns and Live Entertainment- default to the 6-person party limit per table limit and 25% capacity cap
  • When food/alcohol is not being served/consumed, all customers must wear a face covering
  • The brewery and performers will be jointly responsible for ensuring compliance with the guidance

For other forms of indoor entertainment, such as pool, darts, arcade games, etc., follow the Indoor Entertainment Guidance.

Yesterday, the Governor announced an additional five regions will be moving to Phase 2, effective this Sunday, February 14th.

The five regions moving to Phase 2 this Sunday are:

  • East (Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Lincoln, Spokane, Adams, Whitman, Garfield, Asotin)
  • North (Island, San Juan, Whatcom, Skagit)
  • North Central (Okanogan, Chelan, Douglas, Grant)
  • Northwest (Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason)
  • Southwest (Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, Clark, Skamania)

Puget Sound and West regions will remain in Phase 2. South Central Region (Benton, Franklin, Columbia, Kittitas, Walla Walla, and Yakima Counties) will remain in Phase 1. Until we are able to get further movement for South Central, any breweries that are located in the region that are struggling to implement Open Air Dining, please don’t hesitate to reach out to annie@washingtonbrewersguild.org to see if we can help you get into compliance for Open Air.

For more information on what’s allowed in Phases 1 and 2 and links to updated guidance for eating and drinking establishments, here.

There is still a requirement that food be made available on-site for Phase 2 indoor service. You can find the updated on-site food requirements, which now allow for snack options and outside food, here.

This week, new guidance was issued for indoor and live entertainment. Breweries and other eating and drinking establishments may now allow some forms of entertainment, so long as they are done in compliance with the guidelines for indoor entertainment, found here and for live entertainment, found here.

Games & Indoor Entertainment:

Breweries may resume some activities such as pool, darts, arcade gaming, and other games & activities, so long as these activities are done in compliance with the Indoor Entertainment Guidance all other guidelines for eating/drinking establishments. Things you will need to consider when resuming these activities include:

  • Ensure games and activities are 6 feet apart
  • Prohibit mingling between parties (i.e. one table party per game at a time)
  • Customers must be masked at all times when not seated at a table (i.e. not drinking or eating while at a gaming table or participating in an activity that is not at their table)
  • Disinfect games and equipment used for activities between parties

Live Entertainment:

While live entertainment is still very limited in Phase 1, Phase 2 now allows for breweries and other eating/drinking establishments to provide some forms of live entertainment. We have been advised that activities like trivia and other activities where a seated group is led through activities should be considered live entertainment, and the live entertainment guidelines apply to those activities.

We will have a more detailed overview of live entertainment for you next week.

This week, the Senate voted to approve House Bill 1368, which allocates $2.2 billion in COVID-19 federal relief funds. The bill had already cleared the House and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature. Included in the bill is $240 million in grants to small businesses to be issued through the WA Department of Commerce. The bill also provides funding for K-12 schools, public health, healthcare, and assistance to individuals.

Once available, we’ll get you information on how to apply for these new grants. Businesses may be eligible if annual gross receipts were less than $5 million in 2019.

Food must still be made available on-site for indoor service in Phase 2, however, there have been significant changes to the guidance and three meal offerings are no longer required. Snack options (outlined below) and allowing customers to bring in outside food will now meet the food criteria for indoor service in Phase 2.

Here’s the new food guidance for breweries:

  • Food offerings must be provided on-site by the licensed business to customers, during COVID-19 business operations, until such time as full capacity in licensed locations is allowed
  • “Food offerings” means a combination of small serving food items to include a mix of hors d’oeuvre type foods, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, deli-style meats, chips, pretzels, nuts, popcorn, crackers, or similar items
  • Food offerings may be free-of-charge or sold
  • Food offerings may be prepackaged for individual sale and consumption
  • Food offerings may be prepared off-site for plating for the customer
  • Food offerings are not required to have warming, cooking, or heating off-site or on-site prior to service
  • In addition to the required on-site food offerings, the Brewery or Winery shall post, in a conspicuous place within any tasting room, a list of multiple local restaurants or food trucks where customers can purchase food for consumption in the tasting room. The list shall include names, addresses, contact information, and hours of operation for each restaurant or food truck named

Anyone 65 and older and those 50 and older who also live in a multigenerational household are now eligible for the new coronavirus vaccine. The WA Department of Health has an online tool where you can check your vaccine eligibility.

You can find the full framework for vaccine allocation and prioritization here.

This morning, we co-hosted a webinar with the WA Hospitality Association and WA Wine Institute on the newly released Open Air Guidelines for Phase 1  dining. Representatives from the Department of Health, Liquor & Cannabis Board, Labor & Industries, and Office of Governor Inslee provided an overview of the new guidelines and discussed how businesses can comply.

It was an extremely informative session. For those of you who were not able to attend live, you can view the webinar here.

Here are some key takeaways that address the top questions we’ve been getting from members.

Open Air Option 1:

  • Per DOH, the size of the opening on the permeable wall does not matter. What they are looking for is that the opening is providing sufficient fresh airflow within the space so that CO2 levels do not exceed 450ppm seating areas.
  • Per the LCB, there is no approval required for spaces that have already been licensed through the LCB (i.e. your taproom and previously approved outdoor structures), so long as you meet the requirements regarding the wall opening/s and you are monitoring CO2 levels. If you are adding structures that have not been previously approved by the LCB, you must submit an alterations request.

A big thank you to DOH, LCB, L&I, and the Governor’s office for working with us to develop these new, safe, dining options and for taking the time to participate in today’s webinar. We hope this gives you the information needed to get your open air spaces into compliance and ready for guests!

Brewers Association is conducting its annual production survey and could use your help! The 2020 data will be especially important to federal and state lobbying efforts this year. You can complete the survey, here: https://www.brewersassociation.org/bips/

This week, new open air guidance for eating and drinking establishments was released. The new guidance outlines four alternatives to indoor dining and the compliance criteria for each. Our friends at the WA Hospitality Association have put together a tool-kit for businesses looking to add open air dining, found here.

Note: we have received many comments from members regarding the 450ppm CO2 threshold for Open Air concept 1. We are aware and have passed along concerns that this standard is very difficult to meet in some areas of the state, where outside air often exceeds those levels. We understand there is a fix underway and will be sure to let you know when this issue is addressed.

The SBA is accepting PPP loan applications through smaller lenders beginning today, January 15th. Applications through all participating lenders will be accepted beginning January 19th.

Earlier this week, we hosted a PPP loan Q&A with Allied Member, Baker Tilly. During the session, Baker Tilly share information about their loan application portal. Most breweries submitting applications through the Baker Tilly portal would not be subject to any fees. For more information, visit this link.

In our continued effort to get Washington brewers’ stories out in the public, we want to thank Mike Runion for his recent Op-Ed in the Tacoma News Tribune. You can view Mike’s work, here.

We have been working with the Governor’s office, Department of Health, Labor & Industries, Liquor & Cannabis Board, and other hospitality industry groups to develop updated guidance for “Open Air and Outdoor Seating Requirements” for eating and drinking establishments.

These guidelines are effective now and intended to provide alternatives to indoor dining. The updated document outlines four options for breweries and other eating and drinking establishments to offer customers an open air dining experience and applies to both permanent and temporary structures. Breweries may utilize any combination of these options, so long as each dining area is in compliance with the guidance.

We strongly recommend that you check with the LCB and/or your local health jurisdiction before making investments in renovations or changes to your space.

While the new guidelines largely do not impact outdoor tenting and other temporary structures that are currently in compliance, there may be some instances where operators need to make slight modifications to current tent set-ups. The most common adjustment would require the installation of a C02 monitor in a tent or structure where there are two open walls that are adjacent.

You can find the updated guidelines here. Pay careful attention to the diagrams. They will be extremely helpful as you plan your open air spaces and will act as a guide for the approval and enforcement of these spaces.

We are working to put together a webinar soon to cover the guidelines with state agencies and answer questions. In the meantime, please submit any questions you have via this form and we will work to get answers for a FAQ sheet for all breweries.

While not perfect, we are very pleased to have more flexibility to offer safe, fresh air dining during the current indoor dining ban and appreciate the Governor’s office and state agencies taking our input into consideration as these guidelines were developed.

Here’s a helpful resource from our friends at the WA Hospitality Association, who we worked closely with on the new guidelines: WA Hospitality Association – Toolkit: How to set up open air/outdoor seating

Governor Inslee announced the framework for a new reopening plan, “Healthy Washington – Road to Recovery.” Beginning on January 11th, the state will follow a regional phased reopening plan, rather than the county by county approach in the previous Safe Start plan. In addition to moving to a regional approach, there are changes to the criteria required to advance to Phase 2 and Phase 2 occupancy levels. Phase 3 and Phase 4 details have yet to be announced.

Here’s an overview of the new plan and what it means for breweries.

Phases:

Phase 1:

  • Current restrictions will remain in place (including the ban on indoor dining)
  • All regions begin in Phase 1

Phase 2:

  • Easing of some restrictions, including allowing indoor dining at 25%
  • Food menu requirement for indoor seating lifted for breweries that allow minors on-premise (bars now defined as 21+ establishments with no food)

Phase 3: Not Yet Announced

Phase 4: Not Yet Announced

Regions:

The state will be divided into 8 regions for purposes of reopenings, with regions drawn to reflect the healthcare system needs across the state. The regions are as follows:

  • Puget Sound Region (King, Snohomish, Pierce counties)
  • East Region (Adams, Asotin, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Whitman counties)
  • North Region (Island, San Juan, Skagit, Whatcom counties)
  • North Central Region (Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan counties)
  • Northwest Region (Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason counties)
  • South Central Region (Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Kittitas, Walla Walla, Yakima counties)
  • Southwest Region (Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Wahkiakum, Skamania counties)
  • West Region (Grays Harbor, Lewis, Pacific, Thurston counties)

Criteria:

Every Friday, the state Department of Health will evaluate metrics in your region to determine if your region meets the criteria to move to the next phase. If your region’s numbers meet the criteria for advancement, your region will move to the next phase that Monday. The state will be looking at a region’s numbers over the past 14 days.

Phase 1:

  • Your region’s current numbers

Phase 2:

  • 10% decrease trend in case rates
  • 10% decrease in COVID hospital admissions
  • ICU occupancy less than 90% (COVID and non-COVID patients)
  • Test positivity less than 10%

**Regions that fail to meet three of the above metrics will be moved back to Phase 1.

Phase 3: Not yet announced

Phase 4: Not yet announced

Session convenes on Monday, January 11th. Legislators need to hear how the current restrictions are impacting WA craft breweries. We’ve partnered with the WA Hospitality Association on an effort to collect your stories and share them with legislators ahead of Session.

Please take a minute to fill out the form found here.

We’ll be following up with additional info as we learn more.