Metro Vancouver breweries ban growler fills in wake of COVID-19 outbreak

Craft breweries around the province are responding to the recent COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak with bans on growler fills and improved hygiene procedures.

So far there are 53 confirmed cases of the disease in B.C., which was recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. A man in his 80s died of COVID-19 on Monday in North Vancouver, the province’s first fatality.

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Many craft brewery tasting rooms, such as Tinhouse Brewing in Port Coquitlam, will no longer be refilling growlers due to concerns about transmitting the virus.

“In keeping with suggestions from Health Authorities, and the importance of the health and wellness of our customers and staff, we will temporarily suspend all growler fills,” Tinhouse stated in an Instagram post on Thursday. “Sorry for the inconvenience, but we do have lots of packaged products in the fridge for you to take with you.”

Four Winds Brewing in Delta has stopped filling both new and used growlers effective immediately and has reviewed safety procedures for its staff in order to minimize risk.

“We’re trying to be super diligent about cleaning highly touched surfaces as much as we can,” says Four Winds spokesperson Justin Longoz. “We won’t fill any growlers, new or old, until further notice. It’s too hard to tell if a growler is new or used half the time. This is all just so new that we’re all trying to do what’s best for our employees and customers, better safe than sorry!”

Longoz said COVID-19 will likely have a big impact on craft breweries across the province, as well as hospitality industry as a whole.

“Most of us will see dips in tasting room sales and keg orders from restaurants and bars as the public goes out less. You’ll almost definitely see a big dip in festival and event attendance this summer. We have several events planned in the coming months that are sort of up in the air right now.”

The B.C. Distilled craft spirits festival recently announced a number of measures aimed at curbing transmission, including using only single-use cups, reducing attendance, cancelling food service, installing hand wash stations, and offering refunds.

In Victoria, craft breweries there are bracing for the impact of the possible cancellation of the 2020 cruise ship season, which brings hundreds of thousands of tourists to the city every summer.

“The cruise ship industry brings in approximately 18 to 20 per cent of the company’s annual revenue, so it will have some impact for sure,” said Elton Walker, owner of West Coast Brewery Tours.

For more information and updates on COVID-19, visit the federal government’s webpage HERE.

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