Florida's bar shutdown forces formerly successful Riverview brewery out of business

Posted at 7:21 PM, Aug 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-02 19:23:29-04

RIVERVIEW, Fla. -- A local brewery closed its doors for good over the weekend.

Four Stacks Brewing Company is keeping their Apollo Beach location up and running. However, the Riverview location is forced to close up shop due to the state's shutdown of bars and breweries, despite a successful first year operating that location.

“We had to make a decision to buckle down and minimize expenses here, permanently shut down and focus on Apollo Beach,” said Nathan Hangen, founder of Four Stacks Brewing Company.

Unfortunately, Hangen isn’t the only one making tough decisions like this.

Nearly two weeks ago, an organization called Florida United for Craft Brewers drafted a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis and the state’s top business regulator, Halsey Beshears. In that letter, they said nearly a third of Florida’s craft brewing industry risks closing in two weeks. That two-week mark rolls around on Tuesday.

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“The government is saying there’s too many bad actors to regulate us, so they just shut everybody down. My point is, we pay license fees to arm you with the tools that you need to have regulators regulate. It’s not my fault, as a business that’s been paying taxes, that’s been paying licensing fees, that you don’t have the capabilities to regulate,” said Hangen.

Secretary Beshears then announced in a tweet that beginning last Friday, July 31, he would start setting meetings with Florida breweries and bars to discuss ideas on how to reopen as soon as possible. There still has been no word on how long that process is going to take, or who the secretary started meeting with.

“I have not heard a single thing from his office… I feel like it’s an exercise in trying to keep us pacified until more decisions come,” said Hangen.

Hangen is joining other Florida breweries and bars in a lawsuit against the state, saying they feel targeted.

“We’ve been doing social distancing since Day 1. We have the minimum required bar seats, everything’s six feet apart, we require masks in and out, we don’t have large gatherings,” said Hangen.

Hangen says it’s going to take some time to rebound back from here.

“The federal reserve is buying Apple bonds and backstopping all the corporations, but they’re not backstopping Main Street, and that’s the hardest thing to see,” said Hangen.

On Sunday, Beshears' office sent ABC Action News the following statement regarding the reopening process:

"Secretary Beshears met with groups of local brewery owners and groups of local bar owners in a series of meetings hosted in Jacksonville (07.31.2020), Tallahassee (08.01.2020), Pensacola (08.02.2020), and will be visiting Tampa-St. Petersburg (08.03.2020), Ft. Myers (08.04.2020), and other locations on subsequent dates to be determined.

The meetings are intended to provide a forum for Secretary Beshears to listen to the ideas and concerns of licensed business owners in considering opportunities for breweries, bars, and related establishments to reopen safely through a cooperative approach to shaping and sustaining a responsible path forward. Media access will not be available during these meetings."