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COVID-19 disrupts the flow of business for Mid-South craft breweries, delays new taprooms

Wiseacre2 and Grind City Brewing Co. delayed in opening new taprooms due to COVID-19.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It's American Craft Beer Week, a time to celebrate and boost breweries, but for the local craft beer scene, some won't be able to tap in as much for the festivities due to COVID-19.

The new 40,000 square foot facility for the second Wiseacre location is nearly complete with beer flowing on the production side.

"The new facility is exciting. Obviously, it's weird times to be excited and we were almost done with the construction when COVID really hit," Keelan Bartosch, Wiseacre Founder and CEO said.

While beer production is ongoing, the opening of the highly anticipated new taproom was put on hold. Bartosch said when the shutdowns started to happen, they halted the expenses that they could in the taproom. Currently, they're looking to possibly open sometime in June.

"None of us feel like it's the time to overstep our desire to open. I'm not saying that we're going to do that perfectly. I don't know that anybody will. It's hard to figure out what to do, but we don't want to start opening up today and have a big crowd," he said.

The virus also pushed the grand opening of Grind City Brewing Company, located in Uptown, until later this summer rather than opening this month as planned.

"A lot of construction companies were just done for five weeks and some of them are our vendors," Grind City Brewing Co. President Hopper Seely said.

As tap rooms open with limitations, Wiseacre's Broad Ave. location remains closed. Instead, they're continuing curbside orders and deliveries. The empty tap rooms are taking a hit, but Bartosch said it’s their keg sales that are getting the brunt of it due to closed restaurants and bars.

"Overall business is down. We sold a lot of kegs to bars and restaurants all over the state, all over the city and the other markets, and that's been completely gone. And some places are starting to pick back up there extremely slowly," he said.

Those plummeting keg sales made Grind City rethink its business plan.

"Our initial launch plan was to only do kegs and get the bars all rolling. So we had a lot of beer in kegs and then couldn't sell any of it, but the bonus side of being a brewery is we can sell wholesale," Seely said.

Instead of seeing their beer on tap in local restaurant and bars, Grind City sent out their first 500 cases of canned beer to local grocery and liquor stores this week. It's not how Grind City wanted to launch but that's doing ‘beerness’ for you, Seely says.

"We're resilient. We were like alright that's a bummer. Let's see what else we can do."

Wiseacre Brewing Co. is a craft brewery in Memphis, TN committed to top quality, uniquely flavorful beer that appeals to passionate & progressive people through education & good times. Find out where to drink Wiseacre or come visit our Memphis taproom.
Grind City was birthed in the hearts of father and son duo Bill and Hopper Seely when they first dreamed up the idea to open a brewery. After countless hours of kitchen brewing, graduating from the prestigious Brewlab in England, and receiving a Gold Medal at the CAMRA Battle of the Beers, Hopper set out with his team to fulfill their purpose-making great-tasting craft beer for the city they love.

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