Local breweries banding together amid outbreak


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids’ brewery industry, also known as Beer City USA, is struggling in the face of a pandemic that has closed businesses throughout the state.

As the industry is forced to cut jobs, they’re all looking to each other for support.

“We’ve laid off everybody except for one employee,” said Mitch Ermatinger, co-owner at Speciation Artisan Ales.

“We had 48 employees last week, and we have six now,” said Edwin Collazo, an owner at City Built Brewing Co.

With the loss of the dine-in business, these beer-makers are looking to their brewing brethren for help.

“It’s just a lot of us talking to each other trying to figure out how to navigate this,” Ermatinger said.

Those discussions are leading to new business models.

“I basically had to build a whole website to accommodate online orders for people to come and pick up,” he said.

Some going a step beyond — with places like Arvon Brewing Co. even offering delivery.

But the one constant is a newfound dependence on each other.

“I think a lot of people are actually coming to us for help,” Ermatinger said. “Like, ‘how did you do this pickup system?’ So, I’ve had a lot of questions about how to set that up, and it feels pretty good to help everybody out.”

Pickups are vital to keeping breweries afloat.

“I mean, that was part of our business, and it wasn’t our focus,” said Collazo. “And so, it’s now our focus.”

“You need to be smart, do the right thing, and just take precautions,” said Jason Delapp, a carry-out customer at City Built Brewing. “You can still go about your normal business and here I am.”

Because after all, nothing brings people together quite like a fresh pint.

“Guess we’ll just get through this together,” Ermatinger said. “Yeah, it’s going to be insanely hard for everybody, but I think we can get through it if we all band together.”

These brewers say they are focused on survival right now and don’t plan on hiring in any capacity until the pandemic passes.

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