Vermont distillers say pandemic could lead to severe impacts for beverage industry

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Vermont brewers and distillers are trying to find ways to stay afloat yet say the terms that come with some of these rescue loans are too restrictive.

“I don’t believe that we will go back to business as usual,” said Elise Pecor, general manager of Vermont Pub and Brewery.

Tuesday, more than 50 craft brewers, distillers, wine makers, and cider makers voiced their concerns to Vermont Rep. Peter Welch.

“It’s clear from the description you gave that the regulations don’t match up in many cases with the practical situation for many of our small businesses with who the program is intended to help,” Welch said.

The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program is providing more than $300 billion for businesses to bring back workers or to prevent layoffs all together. But many say the loans come with too many strings attached.

“If we limit it to just that 8 week period, then we’re not getting any farther forward,” said Jeremy Elliot, president of Smuggler’s Notch Distillery.

He says the requirement to use the money over 2 months time isn’t practical for an industry that’s seasonal.

“Our businesses are actually slow this time of year,” Elliot said. “Some of them actually shut down.”

Elliot and others say they’re looking for some flexibility and an extension on when they can use the loans. As businesses prepare for a social distancing summer, they’re already anticipating to take a hit and for less out of state visitors.

“We’re expecting during the summer months which is our main revenue generator, we’ll be seeing a 60% or so loss,” said Ken Albert, owner of Shelburne Vineyards.

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