The goal of legislators is always to find solutions to improve the lives of our constituents. In these unprecedented times in struggling with COVID-19, finding solutions may look different than it did a month ago, but our mission has not changed. Together, we can come through this crisis.
In particular, the restaurant industry is now taking the lion’s share of the burden of this drastic economic halt. Dining rooms are closed, bars are mandated shut and ordinary patrons are forced to utilize only take-out and delivery options. This naturally presents many problems, all of which punish servers, bartenders, cooks, and small business owners.
A keg of beer will remain fresh for up to eight weeks after being tapped, as long as it is refrigerated. Obviously, we all hope that this crisis will end long before eight weeks, but the situation remains that many restaurants and bars face the prospect of losing thousands of dollars in inventory. They have no method to dispatch this inventory in a manner that generates much needed cash flow to pay rent, salaries, insurance, taxes, or for future inventory.
Gov. Sununu has taken steps to help alleviate some problems within the foodservice industry, but there’s more work to be done. Through his sixth emergency order, restaurants and bars are now allowed to sell cans and bottles of beer and wine for take-out and delivery, if sold in its original packaging. A positive step, for sure, to allow bars and restaurants a barrier-free pathway to sell some inventory and earn some revenue in these trying times.
Faced with the prospect of losing thousands of dollars in tapped keg inventory, the measure didn’t go far enough to assist our small businesses, though. Bars and restaurants are still unable to sell draft beer and cider in their original packaging, meaning consumers, small business owners and the producers of craft beer and cider lose out.
Related: To-Go Beer Order Not Far Enough
While both the legislature and economy are on a near full-stop, we must come together and work together as communities to help these businesses survive. Those who survive now will thrive later, when this ends. We want all of New Hampshire’s small businesses, including restaurants and bars, to continue through this temporary setback so that our economy can continue to boom when the public health crisis fades into our memories.
Gov. Sununu can aid in this manner under emergency powers. He’s already taken one step in this regard, and we look forward to working with him to move the ball forward even farther.
A simple solution that can aid restaurants, bars, breweries, and beer connoisseurs is to immediately allow for the waiving of necessary regulations in order for these establishments to fill any 32- or 64-ounce glass “growler” or can crowler from their taps, regardless of labeling. After all, breweries are already allowed to fill growlers and crowlers, and can move their product accordingly. Waiving the regulation on growler labeling, and extending the ability to restaurants and bars, represents only a modest step forward.
In regard to minimizing the spread of 2019-nCoV, the order should include necessary instructions to sanitize all vessels brought from outside the establishment. All restaurants, bars, and breweries already have the equipment to properly sanitize dishes, glasses and other items and using that equipment will not prove to be a heavy lift. The practice already exists and is mandated under health standards. Under such an order, restaurants would have the choice to fill growlers or crowlers. They would not be required to do so.
As most good ideas are, this one is truly non-partisan. We’re proud to work together with anyone to promote ideas that will remove barriers to small businesses looking to weather this storm. We only hope the Governor flexes the muscles granted to him under emergency powers in order to do good for New Hampshire’s economy.
Andrew Prout (R-Hudson) and Casey Conley (D-Dover) both serve in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.