TORRANCE, Calif. – Nearly 70 breweries in Los Angeles County are heading into a third month of closures as the ongoing effort continues to slow the spread of coronavirus, but many owners worry their businesses will not be able to survive much longer.

Laurie Porter is the owner of Smog City Brewing. She said her brewery is barely getting by on to-go and delivery orders.

“Because restaurants are still open, people are still going out. We’re not having the same turn out on our to-go sales,” she said. “We’re not having the same orders as our home delivery. It has been a lot harder over the last two months. A little bit scarier, I’d say.”

What You Need To Know

  • Laurie Porter got started in the Southern California craft brewing industry in 2011

  • Her brewery, Smog City, is barely getting by on to-go and delivery orders

  • Breweries, along with other alcohol-focused businesses, are considered “high-risk” where COVID-19 can spread easily so they would not be allowed to reopen

  • Porter said her profit is down almost 70 percent

Porter got started in the southern California craft brewing industry in 2011, when only about ten breweries were in the area. Since then, the number of breweries has grown to almost 100.

“We launched Smog City out of an Orange County brewpub in my Honda Civic with our two-year-old, and delivered beers all over California by hand,” Porter said.

Nine years later, they have two dozen employees and three tap-rooms across Los Angeles County. These days, however, cobwebs fill benches on the patio instead of customers since they’ve been shut down by the county.

Porter said her profit is down almost 70 percent. She’s frustrated because breweries were allowed to reopen June 1 as long as they partnered with third-party food vendors, including food trucks, and sold food along with beer for customers who chose to dine on-site. On June 29, they were shut down again after a state order put Los Angeles County on a monitoring list due to a spike in coronavirus cases.

Porter said the county shut down breweries, and prohibited them from reopening even if they partnered with third-party food vendors, but breweries with restaurant permits are allowed to reopen.

“It puts a lot of our breweries at a detriment to survive this,” she said. “I think we are going to see a lot of closures if there isn’t change.”

Porter is part of the Los Angeles Brewers Guild, a nonprofit that advocates for 93 breweries in the greater Los Angeles area.

Executive director Frances Lopez said 70 of its member breweries – many are family-owned – haven’t been able to reopen. According to Lopez, at least 23 don’t believe they will be able to make it through the end of the year.

She asked the L.A. County Department of Public Health to reconsider allowing breweries to reopen so long as they partner with a third-party food vendor, but was turned down.

The department told Spectrum News 1 that breweries, along with other alcohol-focused businesses, are considered “high-risk” where COVID-19 can spread easily, so they would not be allowed to reopen.

“We’re just trying to get to that point where they would be open to hearing us out and also guiding specifically in our industry, not as another alcohol, bar situation, but in the very unique space where craft breweries actually live,” Lopez said.

Lopez pointed out that breweries should not be placed in the same category as bars and wineries because they operate more like manufacturers, creating their own product and adhering to strict sanitation measures.

Lopez has also urged county supervisors to support their efforts for reopening. 

In a statement to Spectrum News 1, County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she’s advocating for businesses throughout the county to reopen safely.

“I fully support their efforts to seek appropriate safety guidelines from the Department of Public Health so that they can open safely and serve their patrons in the same way that outdoor dining is allowed. The dire impacts of COVID-19 on our local economy, and on the social fabric of our communities, is detrimental and we need to collaborate to find solutions to support businesses in their ability to reopen," reads Barger's statement.

Porter said many breweries are also grappling with high costs during the closure.

“We have insane overheard,” she said. “We spend so much money on our rent, equipment, on secure property taxes to have these machines behind us,” she said.

All to sustain a business Porter has poured her heart and soul into for almost a decade.

When asked about the prospect of shutting down, she paused for a long moment and got teary-eyed, finally saying: “It’s hard to imagine a life without Smog, you know?”