The day after they were able to open for the first time since July, Victoria's brewers have received more good news from the state government.
When the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund was first announced, anyone operating on a producer's license – which includes many of the state's brewers – found they were ineligible. As first reported by The Crafty Pint on October 6, this meant they wouldn't be able to apply for grants of between $10,000 and $30,000 set aside for venues impacted by COVID-19 closures.
Local brewers and the Independent Brewers Association (IBA) pushed for a change, with the issue reaching the mainstream media and one of Daniel Andrews' pressers, where he promised to raise the issue with his staff.
"I will do that for them and for everybody who enjoys craft beer, of which there are many, many people," the Premier said when challenged by a Channel 10 reporter. "It's a thing; it's a big thing. They are the best of their kind in the world, I'm told."
And, as of this morning, businesses operating on producer's licenses are now eligible to apply – see here – with 25 days left to register an application.
IBA general manager Kylie Lethbridge (pictured below) told The Crafty Pint she'd been hounding the Premier's office daily and had received an indication on Saturday that the change was on its way, and that it had been an oversight rather than a deliberate decision to exclude producers.
"It's a great outcome," she says, "because although $30,000 might not seem a lot to some, it's significant and meaningful. Throughout this process, the people that were messaging me every day made me realise that this is a big thing for them and will make a massive difference."
Minister for Business Support and Recovery Martin Pakula said: “We’ve listened to brewery businesses and acknowledged that the guidelines needed to change.
“This will help businesses across the state to consolidate and recover as we continue to steadily re-open the economy."
It continues the best week the state's brewers and the wider hospo community have enjoyed since June. COVID-19 restrictions were significantly eased to allow venues to reopen in accordance with COVIDSafe guidelines, a move that's seen customers flood back to their favourite pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants.
"Everybody is absolutely beside themselves," Kylie says. "They're run off their feet with bookings, which is really heartening.
"There's a lot of emotion. There was so much trepidation as to whether they'd be able to, and how long it's been going on [and] the fact that people are so loyal in wanting to come back. There were people calling around asking if places were going to open at midnight [on Tuesday night] and a lot of bars did.
"People are overwhelmed by the support they've got from their customers and excited about being able to be open, but also nervous around what's going to happen."
Any businesses interested in applying for the grants can start the process here. Eligible brewers will receive an invitation to apply from Business Victoria on November 2, 2020, at the email address they used to sign up for an eLicence in their Liquor Portal account.
Applications will remain open until funds are exhausted or until 23 November 2020, whichever is earlier.
You can read our two-part mini-series on life at craft beer venues through the twin lockdowns here and here.