***A message from our Founder and Head Brewer, Phil Zayas***
To our beloved customers and to the city of Pensacola,
On the morning of Friday, June 26th, The Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation Secretary, Halsey Beshears, declared that all bars are to immediately cease on premise consumption of alcohol due to the rise in COVID-19 cases across the state. This declaration did not apply to restaurants which can remain open at 50% capacity.
This has led to a very difficult decision for us.
Effective tomorrow, Monday June 29th 2020, we are ceasing all brewing operations and service in our outdoor area. This obviously includes all live music, trivia nights, game nights, Speed Friending events and more.
We will be open for curbside and to-go orders only ***ONE DAY A WEEK (Fridays)*** during very limited hours to try to move through our remaining inventory. You can order online throughout the week, however Friday from 2-8 will be the only slot available for pick-up.
To clarify, we are not shutting our doors for good, but we are taking actions now to ensure that our staff stays healthy and that we can minimize our expenditures during this second shutdown. We are forced to close as the only remaining way to keep our business afloat for the future. We will be reopening at a later date that has not been determined as of yet.
Yes, we understand we still legally can use our outdoor area for seating. As a business owner your job is to do what is best for your business. But there also comes a time when you have to look yourself in the mirror and make the most ethical decision you possibly can for the safety and well-being of your customers, your community, your staff, your friends and your family. I took a long look at the loophole that allowed us to keep our outdoor seating open and realized it was just wrong.
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should or that it is the right thing to do.
I want to take a second to clarify a few things:
1) Absolutely NONE of our staff has ever tested positive for COVID-19. None. They’ve been tested and have been negative. That isn’t a factor in this decision.
2) The economics of running a brewery and a taproom are much more complicated than just running a bar. It is a totally different beast. At 50% capacity you are breaking even if you are lucky and with a perpetual to-go model you are losing money and dying a slow death. At 50% capacity we were -56% compared to when we were fully open. Being shut down and doing to-go sales we are -79% or more compared to when we are fully open. Taproom and bar sales just don’t operate in this fashion – it is not how the business model works. By shutting down we will cut our expenses and mitigate our losses. More importantly, by shutting down now we avoid getting people sick, which would really shut us down. DBPR’s decision on Friday puts us in a very difficult spot and is slowly killing us.
3) Back during the first shutdown, DBPR allowed restaurants to reopen but bars were still shut down. This basically crushed our business that was already hurting. We were open 7 days a week but the problem was that restaurants just turned into bars and hangout spots and it crushed our to-go sales. This second and current shutdown is just a repeat of this exact prior scenario.
4) Our city, county, and state government have been inconsistent in their approach towards handling COVID-19 and have not been enforcing the orders to make this go away. It makes no sense how a taproom needs to be shut down, but large gatherings for the 4th of July and the Blue Angels air show are still on the calendar. Again, just because there is a loophole or work around doesn’t make it the right thing to do. It makes no sense for me to spend thousands of dollars on sanitizers for all our surfaces, complimentary hand sanitizers for customers, masks for my employees and more to ensure people’s health and safety but then County officials are still going to allow Blue Angels Weekend (the antithesis of social distancing) to go on as planned. What’s the point of us bending over backwards to comply with the executive order of capacity and limitations if places across town don’t follow the same guidelines and there is no enforcement? What is the point of requiring masks inside establishments within City Limits if people can drive down the road outside of city limits to other establishments where it’s not a requirement and then come right back? The inconsistencies have created a very bad situation with the spread of the virus that we are not willing to allow around our facility.
5) Our elected officials have failed to manage this crisis properly. There is not a timeline for bars or taprooms to be reopened. It wasn’t just bars fault though – the blame goes all around. Every form of mass gathering has made this happen. Enforcement of guidelines was spotty or in the majority of the situations – non-existent. Currently a plan and timeline from DBPR to reopen taprooms is also non-existent since its dependent on COVID data. This is literally one specific type of business paying for the sins of everyone’s misdeeds.
I am not writing this to go on a rant or tirade. I am trying to explain to our valued customers why we are making this decision. This is 100% about doing what is morally right as a business, protecting our community and ensuring our long-term survival as a company.
I do have an ask of you though during this time:
1) Please support our online To-Go orders. As I stated at the beginning, we are only going to do To-Go and curbside one day a week and with limited hours. We are doing this to reduce risk and exposure, to reduce costs, and honestly – to keep our sanity.
2) We will be offering curbside and walkup services. On Fridays you can walk up to the front of our building and order beer if you can’t order online. We ask that you comply with our 6 foot spacing on the grounds and that you wear a mask when coming up to order.
3) We do have new beers in our fermenters that were already made before DBPR’s decision. So you will get some new stuff pretty soon. We will put them out as they become available.
4) Please support our business partners as well. Its not just our immediate staff at Emerald Republic that is affected. We support and employ local artists, local musicians and more. We do business with local vendors, trivia companies, restaurants and food trucks as well. Because we are closed, we can’t support them but if you can PLEASE support them. Here are a list of just a few establishments and people who could also use your support:
COVID-19 is very real. It has never gone away and now it is really on the rise. Every day we break new case records. Every day more hospitalizations. Enough is enough.
We are the definition of a mom and pop business. We were open 102 days before we were forced to shut down the first time. That was not enough time for us to build a nest egg for two consecutive shutdowns. We don’t have the financial resources that more established businesses have which makes this decision even harder. But we know what is the right thing to do.
On the north side of our building there is a mural that reads ‘Crafted with Conviction – Devised 2008, Founded 2019’. I have been brewing and been in the beer industry since 2008. It took me 11 years to save up the money to open Emerald Republic and to learn the skills I needed to open it and to excel. I have worked so many jobs in this industry ranging from cellarman, merchandiser, distributor sales, bartender, brewer, supplier representative and now – owner. I even went to brewing school. I did all this in order to give my best…my absolute best…to Pensacola.
Over the weekend I realized that there is no way for me to give my best by keeping the outdoor area open, remaining open seven days a week and exposing my staff, my customers and others to this virus. It isn’t my best.
There are some things that are just much more important than money.
Stay healthy Pensacola,