SEATTLE — The Small Business Administration announced hard-hit local restaurants and bars can apply for a share of $26 billion in COVID-19 relief beginning next Monday.
But here in Washington state, one important business has been left out -- craft distilleries.
Reserve a visit to 2bar Spirits in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood, and you can not only taste the bourbon, but also see how it’s made. 2bar survived the pandemic shutdowns. But it’s been tough, said founder Nathan Kaiser. “What we had to do is we actually shut down production for about four or five months just to be sure we were able to keep the lights on,” he said.
Kaiser is the vice president of the Washington Distillers Guild of craft distillers.
Much of their production goes to restaurants so, when they had to close, the business collapsed. “I think we were at 138 distilleries pre 2020. And now, we’re at 108, so we lost you know over 30,” he said.
There was hope when he learned distillers would be eligible for COVID-19 relief passed by Congress in the American Rescue Plan.
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But then came the eligibility rules set by the Small Business Administration. The rules that require 33% of revenue come from on-site sales in order to qualify for financial aid.
But Kaiser said Washington State Law limits on-site sales to just 25% of revenue. “And so, with one fell swoop, 108 distilleries are not going to get any relief,” he said.
So in a rare show of bipartisan unity, Washington’s entire Congressional delegation wrote to the SBA on Friday to ask that Washington Craft Distillers be included in the COVID-19 relief.
Congressman Derek Kilmer led the letter.
“I don’t think that was an intentional move by the SBA to cut distilleries out. All we’re asking for is a very common-sense fix to alter the SBAs criteria to make sure we’re getting help to folks who need it,” Kilmer said.
The COVID-19 relief could be as much as $30,000 a distillery.
“Huge. It allows people to pay their rent, pay their people to invest in the business,” Kaiser said.
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