The long journey to the new normal continues for Asheville-area breweries.
Just over a month after Gov. Roy Cooper ushered the state into Phase 2 of reopening amid the coronavirus emergency and allowed many businesses to resume operations at limited capacities, several local breweries have yet to bring back indoor operations.
As cases of COVID-19 continue to grow across North Carolina, brewery owners are concerned with keeping guests and employees safe. Both large and small breweries have moved all seating outdoors, and a few have only opened for takeout business.
Asheville’s biggest brewery, New Belgium Brewing Co., has opened a new outdoor patio. “It’s all outside, and we are asking folks get a reservation,” says spokesman Michael Craft.
Patrons can save a spot daily by using the Open Table app. Beer orders are taken at and delivered to the tables by New Belgium staff. “We are flattered that so many people want to enjoy our space, but we want them to do that as safely as possible,” Craft says.
Asheville Brewing Co. is also seating guests outside, both at its South Slope brewpub on Coxe Avenue and its Merrimon Avenue restaurant, says President Mike Rangel. The Merrimon location has a new patio in a former parking lot on the left side of the property. At both sites, beer and food orders are taken at service windows, though the Merrimon discount cinema remains closed.
Oyster House Brewing Co. in West Asheville has yet to open for indoor seating, says owner and brewer Billy Klingel. “We have loosened up a bit,” he says. “You can certainly get a pint and food [to go] and sit on the patio. But as soon as we officially start selling pints [for on-premise consumption], we’ve got to give them access to the restrooms — and I’m doing all I can to make sure nobody comes inside our building.”
Wedge Brewing Co. is also welcoming customers outdoors at its Foundation brewery, says owner Tim Schaller. The original Wedge Studios space plans to open the week after July 4, and seating will also be limited to outdoors.
Brouwerïj Cursus Kĕmē on Thompson Street, not far from Biltmore Village, remains closed for now, says owner/brewer Jeffrey Horner. “We always ran a pretty tight crew here, personnel-wise,” he says. “With all the new [health] recommendations, unless we got really, really busy, we would lose money every shift.” Horner is currently investigating canning and distributing his beers.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Mills River also remains closed. A brewery spokesman could not be reached for comment.