On Friday Saint Arnold Brewing Co. founder and owner Brock Wagner was contacted by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission about a tweak as to how breweries are defined by the state.
Previously, breweries with kitchen operations were likely allowed to keep their dining rooms open despite the mandated closure of Texas bars and taprooms. That's because food sales were typically more than 51 percent of revenue, per the TABC definition, giving those breweries the distinction of being called restaurants. But as of Friday, the TABC includes the sale of beer to off-site distributors into the calculation that determines whether it's a restaurant or bar.
That means Saint Arnold, which has a wide distribution network in Texas and Louisiana, is now defined as a bar. The brewery announced Monday it had to shut down dine-in (outside in the beer garden) operations and will have to eliminate 75 jobs.
"They were apologetic," says Wagner about the TABC. "It's the governor's office that is making the call on this."
Saint Arnold will continue with curbside pick-up for both food and beer. It's also encouraging customers to contact Gov. Greg Abbott about the change. Wagner says the 75 jobs lost will be furloughs to start, though he's concerned that businesses defined as bars have an enormous challenge in front of them.
"All of this is frustrating, especially after working so hard to create one of the safest places in town," he says. "Also we have kept on a larger team at the Beer Garden so as to keep our people off of unemployment rolls. Then comes this kind of action, which runs completely contrary to the governor's stated desire to keep Texas working."
We've reached out to other breweries with full kitchens that were offering dine-in service to check on their statuses. We'll update with any new information.