By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
We know the pandemic hurt a lot of local businesses, but a new report suggests the state’s breweries took the brunt of the downturn.
“It definitely was one of the hardest hit areas and hardest hit industries in Oregon,” said Damon Runberg, Regional Economist with the Oregon Employment Department.
In the Spring of 2020 Oregon Breweries lost 3,500 jobs.
“Employment was down in the Oregon brewing sector by 48% and that was kind of that initial COVID shock,” said Runberg.
The industry was able to add back around 1,950 jobs last summer, but employment was still down by 29%.
Runberg says several breweries were able to survive.
“The closure rate wasn’t particularly high compared to your average year,” he added.
River Bend Brewing Company’s head brewer Chasen Shultz said package sales to consumers helped keep them afloat during the pandemic while they couldn’t deliver kegs to bars.
“I know a lot of other breweries are hurting pretty bad, we were one of the fortunate ones, we are staying strong I guess you can say,” said Chasen Schultz River Bend Brewing Company’s Head Brewer.
Everyone at the brewing company was able to stay on full time.
Its canned beer sales increased from previous years due to the pandemic.
“I think there is going to be some new changes around the industry,” Schultz said. “I think the can market has kind of exploded and I think that is here to stay. A lot of people are probably more used to drinking at home now.”
Other local breweries showed signs of survival as well.
Bend Brewing Company plans to open a second taproom and Cascade Lakes Brewing just finished a remodel.
With COVID case rates dropping, Runberg expects a busy next couple months.
“I’m really optimistic that by sort of the middle of this summer we will see dramatic improvement, far more dramatic even than we saw last summer when it comes to employment in breweries and brewpubs,” said Runberg.
“I imagine by somewhere in 2022 we will be talking about them being completely recovered,” he added.