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Half of New York breweries are not making beer, survey finds

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Nearly half of New York breweries have halted production as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and nearly two-thirds reported being able to survive another three months under current economic conditions, according to a New York State Brewers Association survey.

The findings mirror those of a poll of breweries nationwide conducted by the Brewers Association earlier this month.

Red Girl Rye from Irondequoit Beer Company. - PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • Red Girl Rye from Irondequoit Beer Company.
The New York trade group received responses from 152 of the state’s 416 breweries and found that almost a quarter of them — in the Finger Lakes region and across the state — have ceased operations. New York City breweries were hardest hit, with 55 percent reporting that they have closed down amid the pandemic.

“The overall consensus shows that all regions of NYS have been significantly impacted by this pandemic,” the report reads. “Without more aid from local, state and federal government, this industry may face a severe decline.”
Workers are bearing the brunt of the losses. Sixty-five percent of full-time brewery workers have been furloughed or laid off amid the pandemic, and 87 percent of part-time workers, the survey found.

Most breweries are small operations, with an average of 10 full-time and eight part-time employees, according to the association.

Across most metrics, New York breweries are seeing challenges more or less in line with their counterparts nationwide national numbers. For example, roughly 60 percent of New York breweries reported a drop in sales of 75 percent or more, whereas 60 percent of breweries across the country have seen sales plummet 70 percent or more.



Many breweries are now turning to different business models to survive. A quarter of breweries in the Finger Lakes are relying on curbside sales to keep the business afloat, including Rochester area mainstays like Swiftwater and K2 Brothers Brewing.

A little more than a third of responding breweries were in western New York or the Finger Lakes region.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at gfanelli@rochester-citynews.com.