Rep. Wexton Introduces Fairness for Craft Beverage Producers Act

Today, U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), the founder of the Congressional Agritourism Caucus, along with co-leads Representatives Jason Crow (D-CO) and María Elvira Salazar (R-FL), introduced the bipartisan Fairness for Craft Beverage Producers Act that would allow craft breweries, wineries, distilleries, and other small beverage producers that depend on in-person sales in their taprooms and tasting rooms to be eligible for a larger maximum loan amount in the Second Draw Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). These craft beverage producers were inadvertently excluded from increased maximum PPP loan amount eligibility, which is designed to aid the hardest-hit small businesses like restaurants and bars. The bill makes a similar correction to fix an oversight which excluded these businesses from receiving extended debt relief on other loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA).

“Craft beverage producers who rely on on-premise sales have been some of the hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like restaurants and bars, they’ve closed or significantly reduced capacity in their taprooms and tasting rooms, making business all but impossible during the cold winter months,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “I’ve spoken with many of these small businesses owners across our district. Unfortunately, many are hanging by a thread, taking things week by week and doing all they can to keep their doors open. These small businesses drive our local economy, support jobs across our district, and add to the vibrancy and character of our region. We must swiftly correct this oversight in the second round of the PPP to keep our favorite breweries, wineries, and distilleries afloat through the next few months of this crisis.”

“Over 80% of our local small businesses employ less than 10 people. Our South Florida craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries have created and supported thousands of jobs across our community,” said Congresswoman Salazar. “I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan Fairness for Craft Beverage Producers Act alongside my colleague, Congresswoman Wexton, that provide full access to the Paycheck Protection Program loans for local small brewers and distillers. I look forward to continuing working in a bipartisan fashion to deliver immediate COVID-19 relief for our struggling local job creators.”

“Our local breweries, distilleries, and cideries fuel tourism, employ thousands of Coloradans, and help make our community a vibrant place,” said Congressman Jason Crow. “The health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has put the future of these businesses at risk. By swiftly correcting this oversight in the second round of PPP we can help our craft producers stay afloat and continue to be an essential part of our community.”

The Second Draw PPP Loan program was authorized as part of the bipartisan COVID-19 relief deal signed into law in December 2020. The program increases the maximum loan amount from 2.5 times monthly payroll costs to 3.5 times for small businesses in the hospitality industry such as restaurants and bars that have faced the greatest impacts of the pandemic. Although craft beverage producers with taprooms and tasting rooms operate and support thousands of jobs just like any other bar or restaurant, they were inadvertently omitted from receiving this expanded assistance on a technicality. Congresswoman Wexton’s bill corrects this error to include craft beverage producers that are reliant on in-person sales but classified differently than restaurants or bars in the category of hardest-hit small businesses eligible for this increased maximum loan amount.

“Small distilleries, breweries, and wineries across Virginia and across the United States have seen their business crushed as a result of the pandemic,” said Becky Harris, President of the American Craft Spirits Association. “Tasting room closures and lowered capacity have meant less traffic, fewer tastings, and job losses in these agritourism businesses. As President of the American Craft Spirits Association and co-owner of Catoctin Creek Distillery, I appreciate Representative Wexton’s recognition that craft beverage tasting rooms function like other hospitality businesses, and without the ability to gather to share our products with friends, our small businesses are struggling to hold on. The ability to qualify for the expanded PPP relief will be a lifeline to many in our industry. I urge Congress to act quickly to send relief to all our struggling businesses.”

The Fairness for Craft Beverage Producers Act corrects an additional oversight in the December 2020 relief bill to include these craft beverage establishments in a provision providing the hardest-hit businesses with extended debt relief for existing SBA loans. The provision grants these businesses an additional 5-month period under which SBA is qualified to pay principal, interest, and any other associated fees for existing SBA loans. 

Virginia’s 10th District is home to over one hundred craft breweries, wineries, distilleries, and other small beverage producer businesses that have closed or significantly reduced capacity at their in-person taprooms and tasting rooms, which many depend on for the revenue to stay open. 

In addition to Wexton, Salazar, and Crow, the Fairness for Craft Beverage Producers Act is also cosponsored by Reps. David Rouzer (R-NC) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA).

The legislation is supported by the American Craft Spirits Association, the Wine Institute, WineAmerica, and the Brewers Association. 

The full text of the bill can be found here.

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