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Less Frequent Beer Deliveries Leave Many San Francisco Bars Tapped Out

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- San Francisco has reopened so it's a great time to revisit some of the city's famed neighborhood watering holes. But, when patrons get there, they may find their favorite beer is no longer available, off the tap. One possible reason for that is causing an uproar among the city's bar owners and they are determined to fix it.

"It's important that I have that Anchor Steam for (bar regular) Victor or the Old Speckled Hen for Keith," said Shea Shawnson, general manager of Elixir at 16th and Guerrero in the Mission District, said to be the city's second-oldest bar. (The Old Ship on Pacific Ave. is a few years older.)

At a bar as old as Elixir, familiarity is sacred. On the heels of the pandemic, that has been a challenge.

"This is where we keep all the kegs," Shawnson explained standing in the bar's walk-in cooler. "There's no other place to keep the kegs. Ideally, beer comes in cold and stays cold. You don't want to get it cold, warm, cold. That's not good for beer."

Like many of the city's older bars, Elixir has limited storage space and that is a big problem now that one of the region's major beer distributors, Golden Brands, has made some changes. For example, Elixir used to get beer delivered once a week. Then, every two weeks.

"That two weeks recently went to ... every month." Shawnson said. "So that's four weeks of beer that I have to store."

"A lot of my distributors, I get deliveries twice a week," said Maria Davis, owner of St. Mary's Pub in Bernal Heights.

St. Mary's is another older, smaller bar. With nowhere to store a month's worth of beer, Davis had no choice but to start dropping beers that she can only get from Golden Brands.

"Big ones," she says. "Miller, PBR, Modelo, Corona."

Also affected by this is none other than San Francisco's own Anchor Brewing and its famed Anchor Steam and other beers are now disappearing from taps across the city.

"We don't have it," Davis said of Anchor even though there's a sign hanging in the bar window promising its availability. "We don't have any Golden Brands products. I would love to. People ask for it. We have people that come in that work for Anchor."

"I'll go down to Anchor Steam and pick up the kegs myself if I have to," Shawnson says.

Being a tight community, it wasn't long before dozens of bar owners realized this frustration was shared across San Francisco.

"Then I was like, 'why are we all sitting here taking this?'" Davis said. "So that's when I put a post saying 'hey, let's do something about this.'"

With that, more than 80 San Francisco bars signed on to a letter, begging Golden Brands to make changes.

"It feels like it's a pinch on small business," Shawnson said.

They say all they want is a return to normal for their businesses and their regulars.

"I can't wait to have a Miller High Life," Davis said. "I'm trying to be the Erin Brockovich of Miller High Life."

KPIX reached out to Golden Brands multiple times in recent weeks. The company has not yet responded. The bar owners that united to write the letter say they are still trying to reach some kind of agreement with the company and are hopeful there will eventually be a resolution.

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