While bars reopen, uncertainty remains

Last week Instagram and other social media were full of happy pictures again. Bars full of people , enjoying beer flowing from taps again. A beautiful sight after weeks of yet another shutdown.

A shutdown that was decreed by the government after another surge of positive Covid tests and the rise of the omicron variant, a strain that we didn’t completely comprehend yet in mid-December. And it wasn’t only bars. All venues that weren’t essential shut down. Only shops selling food were open. For once we had the strictest rules in Europe concerning Covid.

And then came the great news that omicron wasn’t nearly as dangerous as feared and that even though hundreds of thousands of people are getting infected, the number of hospital ICU beds with Covid patients was hardly rising. The newly installed government decided on opening up most of public life again, including the bars, albeit until 10 at night at the latest.

The reopening of bars is a much needed step to keep bars open and for breweries to have more places to sell their kegs. Both have had a tough time. Sure, there was government help and even though that covered most of it, some bars and breweries are on the brink of closing with some actually folding in 2021.

Good News, but…

The reopening of the bars won’t immediately save everyone and make all owners millionaires overnight. There are at least two issues that will have a long lasting effect.

Prices

As you are probably well aware if you live anywhere on this planet, inflation is high. Resources are more expensive. This includes all the ingredients like malt and hops, but also the water and fuel needed to brew beer. If you had to start a new contract in the latter part of 2021, the price of gas has increased. To combat this, breweries are forced to ask higher prices for their beer, and bar owners in turn have to raise theirs for the consumers. So getting a good glass of beer, already pricy, will get more expensive. And not only craft breweries, big breweries like Heineken are forced to do the same.

Staff

Another problem is the lack of staff. Some bars decided to let go of their staff in the last two years. Even with government help, keeping staff was a loss because the help didn’t completely compensate the labor costs.

The omicron variant is stirring up new problems. First of all some workers decided to seek employment elsewhere. Wages are often higher doing different work, and there is a labor shortage in almost every part of the economy.

Then there is the very high possibility of testing positive with this variant. Doesn’t mean you are at home and sick as a dog, but it does mean you cannot work for a few days and if a bar doesn’t have backup, it means shutting down. Another loss of income.

Breweries

The reopening is of course good news for breweries. The corona crisis for most breweries meant selling more bottles, but fillings kegs came with a risk. Because it was hard to forecast how corona would behave it happened often that bars and brewpubs closed again. Left were thousands of kegs. So much that some breweries had to dispose of thousands of liters of kegged beer because it was going to spoil. And a tank full of beer is a lot of potential income. Some came up with ideas of filling growlers, but this was never enough to make all the money back.

So even though it is a great thing that bars and breweries are back in business, the lack of staff and higher prices might still lead to rocky return to normal, if we ever get there.

2022 is going to be interesting, to say the least.

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