Orange tier peels away more restrictions for breweries, distilleries

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SAN DIEGO – The tight pandemic restrictions on breweries, distilleries and wineries are being peeled away with San Diego County on the cusp of entering the state’s orange tier.

The county moves up into the less restrictive reopening tier Wednesday, allowing for additional capacity for restaurants, churches and movie theaters. It also means places such as breweries and wineries can open their doors to customers at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

“Yeah, this is a really big day,” said Geoff Longenecker, owner of Seven Caves Spirits in Miramar. “It’s awesome.”

Longenecker said the distillery hasn’t opened its tasting room for more than a year. In fact, at this time last year, he says he was busy making thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer.

“And now we’re in my shop talking about reopening,” he said. “It’s pretty wild.”

California reached its goal Tuesday of administering 4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to hard-hit communities, a milestone which led to relaxing the thresholds for tier assignments. If not for the change, San Diego County’s current daily case rate would have kept the community in the red tier as it has been since mid-March.

County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher called the move “yet another significant step” in the local recovery from the pandemic.

“The vaccine has given us a path to save lives, restore our economy, send our kids back to school and get our way of life back,” Fletcher said Tuesday.

Longenecker said shipping his spirits is what kept him afloat during the pandemic. As he transitions his tasting room back to being ready for customers, he says this reopening will be a game changer.

“It’s a really challenging thing in the craft spirit industry when you don’t have a name to ask somebody to try your alcohol on blind faith,” he said. “It’s awesome that we get to serve people here. Try my alcohol see what you think.”

At Burgeon Beer Company in Carlsbad, phones are ringing more and more often with restaurants and bottle shops stocking up, marketing director Mackenzie Graham said.

“It is just great to see those accounts calling us wanting more beer and beginning to do what they do best,” Graham said.

Breweries that don’t serve food only were allowed to open starting last month, but Burgeon teamed up with food trucks to serve food. That means the orange tier promotion actually pushes their operations to 50% under the restaurant criteria.

Another boost for business is a lifted curfew for bars and restaurants beginning Wednesday, county officials announced.

“We are opening a new location in downtown Little Italy, and to match the awesome sort of vibrant downtown feel down there that location will be able to stay open later in the evenings, so that change in hours means a lot,” Graham said.

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