New rules to curb coronavirus will test Torrance’s convivial craft-beer community – Daily News

on Jun22
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The relatively young craft-beer industry had seen breweries evolve organically into community-oriented, dog-friendly, kid-friendly spaces.

Friends gathered at communal picnic tables many breweries provide in their tap rooms to celebrate everything from baby showers to retirements.

Regulars tended to hang out at the bar for a pint or two and mingle with other familiar faces before grabbing some brews to go.

And games of Jenga or Cornhole would often break out spontaneously as folks challenged others to friendly games.

But as the industry begins to emerge from the mandatory shuttering of tap rooms during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear that casual social model is gone for the foreseeable future with physical distancing requirements and reduced capacity.

Typically, patrons are now required to sit at tables in small groups, while some breweries recommend reservations in an effort to avoid long lines.

Groups will customarily be escorted to an assigned table, often at an enlarged outdoor patio to accommodate physical distancing.

As of Friday, the requirement to order food was dropped now that bars are permitted to reopen, too. Nonetheless, visiting friends at nearby tables is forbidden. And you can only get up — masked — to go to the restroom or leave the premises.

“Things will be very different than they were before,” Torrance’s Smog City Brewing, which re-opened this weekend, told its customers in its regular newsletter.

“Many of these items are state and county rules we must follow,” the family-owned brewery added. “Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we move into yet another new way of doing business.”

It’s social distancing without the sociability, an environment that seems antithetical to the vibe the close-knit craft beer community has seen evolve over the last few years.

Smog City, known for its irreverent sense of humor and experimental beer, survived the shutdown by selling brews for pick-up and delivery like many other breweries. Its beers sported such names as “Quarantine Machine” and a series of India Pale Ales called Strange Times, which boasts the slogan “pairs well with uncertainty and is best enjoyed six feet apart.”

The brewery officially reopened its revamped taproom Saturday after soft openings Thursday and Friday, but co-owner Laurie Porter doesn’t believe the authentic brewery experience is threatened.

“People are adaptable,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going to see this affect taproom culture.

“You can still talk to people at other tables,” Porter added, “from a distance.”

Frances Lopez, executive director of the Los Angeles County Brewers Guild, the local trade association for breweries, hopes that the loyalty of craft beer fans to the brewery experience — and the fact many have stayed cooped up for months — will help overcome the radical change in atmosphere.

“All of this will take some getting used to, ” she acknowledged. “Tap rooms bring such a unique and special sense of community.

“And there is an expectation for us to deliver on that community,” Lopez added. “Our hope though, is that our supporters bear with these rules and help us continue to serve them to the best of our ability.”

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