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Surly Beer Hall's Closing May Be Sign Of Things To Come For Minnesota's Craft Breweries

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Surly Beer Hall in Minneapolis is closing indefinitely in November -- the latest place to departure from the Twin Cities food and beer scene.

It comes days after workers shared their intent to form a union. Some lawmakers call this "union busting," an illegal retaliation against workers. But Surly says the decision was made before that move.

It's a move that Liz Rammer with Hospitality Minnesota calls "heart wrenching."

"This is a business that, you know, was truly groundbreaking, broke many barriers for our state," Rammer said.

She said Surly helped changed the law, allowing breweries to serve their beer on site, paving the way for dozens more to open. In a statement, Surly said it tried to keep the doors open and people employed, but there wasn't a way forward with beer hall revenue down 82%. And there was an anticipated loss of at least $750,000 this winter.

"It's really a tipping point for us, and it should be a real jarring wake-up call about what's ahead for us," Rammer said. "This is probably really just the start of what we're going to see over the next several months."

Map Of Restaurants In The Twin Cities Metro Area That Have Closed Since COVID-19

Rammer expects the lean fall and winter will sting even more. Despite the dire news, Lakes & Legends Brewing Company in Loring Park is optimistic their business model will hold. Derrick Taylor is the owner.

"While it's been challenging, the amount of support we've seen from downtown Minneapolis and beyond has been overwhelming, and it's why we're open today," Taylor said.

He said people have ordered record numbers of growlers to go and through delivery from the small business. He said they're used to adapting, and with a larger taproom they can space out indoor seating. He said even when the outside seats go away when the weather changes, he remains hopeful.

"Trying to secure that revenue while cutting costs where we can, and hopefully the combination of all that will get us through," Taylor said.

The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild says there are just less than 200 breweries in the state. One has closed permanently, and now with Surly, two are closed indefinitely.

The guild and Hospitality Minnesota say this underscores the critical need for a better plan from state and federal leaders to help the industry get to the other side.

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