Wisconsin distilleries urge Congress to provide economic relief during pandemic

Wisconsin State Farmer
Thirty Wisconsin distilleries were represented by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and the Wisconsin Distillers Guild.

Thirty Wisconsin distillers sent a letter to Congress urging them to provide more relief during the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused economic devastation for Wisconsin's businesses.

Represented by the Wisconsin Distillers Guild and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the distillers said their industry was booming before the COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants and bars to close down. Since then, many distillers have taken to producing hand sanitizer, like Ledgerock Distillery in Fond du Lac.

"We are proud that over 15 small, medium and large distilleries across the state are also doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by transitioning to produce hand sanitizer, but they will continue to need the help and support of Congress for months to come," the letter read.

A release said the distilled spirits industry, prior to the pandemic, was creating $3 billion in economic activity and also supported nearly 40,000 jobs in Wisconsin. The letter explained nearly half of the guild's members may have to permanently close to recoup losses. Many of them have already furloughed or laid off employees.

Further, a survey conducted by DISCUS and the American Distilleries Institution over 35 states and 118 distilleries said nearly two-thirds of those interviewed said they won't be able to sustain their business for more than six months unless direct action is taken. Respondents also said over 40% of distillery employees have been either furloughed or laid off from their jobs.

The letter said Congress should take action by providing federal excise tax relief or deferring those taxes, suspending tariffs on distilled spirits, creating an industry stabilization fund or funding low- or no-interest loan assistance programs.

"The distilled spirits industry is uniquely positioned at the nexus of the hospitality, agriculture, retail, and tourism industries," the letter read. "The livelihoods of farmers, glass bottle makers, truck drivers, warehouse workers, and countless others connected to the hospitality and tourism industry are compromised by the challenges confronting the distilled spirits industry."