CHICAGO — Representatives of Illinois craft distilleries, many of which transitioned from producing liquor to essential businesses making hand sanitizer amid the coronavirus pandemic, warned the state’s congressional delegation of dire consequences for the industry without help from Washington.
“Due to the impact of the pandemic, many distilleries in Illinois have been forced to furlough or lay off employees, and some are facing the hard decision of whether to close their doors permanently,” according to a joint letter from Noelle DiPrizio, president of the Illinois Craft Distillers Association and Chris Swonger, president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
A survey of craft distillers found two thirds of the 118 distilleries surveyed said they did not believe they would be able to sustain the business for more than six more months. About 43 percent of employees have been furloughed or laid off since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The average respondent’s staff had fallen from about 14 workers before the virus to about eight.
As of 2018, the state’s liquor industry provided more than 77,000 jobs and more than $7 billion in economic activity, according to the letter from industry representatives. With bars, restaurants and tasting rooms shuttered or struggling, craft distillers have seen their revenue fall by 41 percent this year.
The joint letter called on the state’s members of Congress to pass the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act to avoid a 400 percent increase on taxes for Illinois craft distillers starting in January, as well as the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive, or RESTAURANTS, Act, which would provide grants to eligible hospitality businesses.
It also asked the state’s congressional delegation to urge the Trump administration to work with European officials to arrange the simultaneous removal of tariffs on liquor, which has seen revenue U.S. whiskey exports drop by more than $300 million since 2018. The European Union may soon impose additional tariffs on other U.S. alcohol products, the letter said.
On Friday, three days after President Donald Trump said in a tweet that he had called off negotiations over the passage of another coronavirus economic relief bill until after the Nov. 3 election, the president said in a radio interview he “would like to see a bigger package” than either party was offering.
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October 9, 2020 at 03:50PM