Norm Needleman


Norm Needleman



January 11, 2021

Senator Needleman Holds Zoom Roundtable Discussion With District Breweries to Find Solutions Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Today, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) held a roundtable business discussion with the owners of several independent breweries operating in his Senate District. As the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the breweries’ business practices since March 2020, and breweries struggling to sell their offerings in the current resulting market, Sen. Needleman discussed specific challenges the breweries face in surviving the challenging winter season and what solutions could assist them until the pandemic’s abatement or widespread adoption of vaccines allow for resumption of traditional practices.

Brewery owners participating in the discussion included Dave Peichert, co-owner of Concentric Brewing Company of Portland; Carlisle Schaeffer and Sam Wagner, co-founders of Little House Brewing Co. of Chester; Kerstin Fluegeman and Spencer Waldron, owners of High Nine Brewing of Deep River; and Justin Terribile, co-owner and director of sales and marketing for 30 Mile Brewing of Old Saybrook.

“Independent breweries have been one of Connecticut’s strongest business success stories in recent years, and we cannot allow the COVID-19 pandemic to change that,” said Sen. Needleman. “We gathered this morning to discuss, frankly, the state of their businesses, what impact the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions have had on them, and what potential responses and solutions could help them during these extremely challenging times. I’m hopeful that federal assistance and state support can help them find improvements. With several breweries reporting strong declines in business, we need to find solutions as soon as we can.”

“Like many small businesses, Covid has been nothing short of scary,” said Peichert. “Right after signing our lease and beginning the build-out of our brewery, the pandemic really took hold and things began closing down. We had spent a fair amount of time analyzing the market and carefully planning every aspect of our business but a global pandemic never hit our radar.”

Brewery owners reported many strategies adopted in the wake of the pandemic, including shifts to to-go sales and deals to supply local restaurants with draft beer, but continue to struggle in light of strong declines in customer traffic. They further noted some rules put in place by the Department of Consumer Protection, including a mandate to require food sales with alcoholic beverages, further complicate the difficult balance they face; some locations, for instance, are not allowed to sell food, while others face stark financial losses in acquiring equipment to serve food. They also reported frequent changes in regulations leave them struggling to interpret correct practices with minimal time to properly implement changes.

Discussions centered around the winter months, in which breweries are seeing their worst sales amid strict limits on customers allowed, increased spread of COVID-19 and other difficulties. It’s hoped federal assistance will help in the immediate future, but the owners said they need support from the state and others to have the best chance of success. Sen. Needleman plans to seek assistance for them through the Department of Community and Economic Development.