Setting Up Beer Gardens and Coronavirus: Moving Your Brewery Experience Outdoors

We’re nearing the end of summer, and the hospitality industry is still on uncertain terms. With openings, closings, reopenings, and ever-changing guidelines, it’s hard for brewery owners to know how to navigate.

One guideline that seems to stick is that outdoor, socially distanced activities are mostly safe. Fortunately, this presents a unique opportunity to move your brewery experience outdoors with a beer garden! Here’s what you need to know about safely setting up beer gardens during Coronavirus.

Read the full post here!

The concept of the beer garden has been around for a long time. Beer gardens—outdoor drinking venues—started in Munich, Germany in the 1800s, and still enjoy popularity today.

A beer garden or “Biergarten” in German, is a place where people come together to enjoy food and tasty beverages outdoors. Often, music and games are part of the fun and key to creating a feeling of “gemütlichkeit.According to Brew York New York, the German word is defined as the “notion of belonging, social acceptance, cheerfulness, the absence of anything hectic, and the opportunity to spend quality time.” In other words—exactly what we ALL need right now during Coronavirus.

Anyone who’s been to Milwaukee’s German Fest knows the joy of raising a glass outside with friends and family. German heritage in Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest means that beer gardens are a natural fit. There’s nothing we love more than enjoying a frosty beverage and a salty pretzel outside in the sun.

Traditionally, beer gardens sell food and beverages (in Germany, some Biergartens allow patrons to BYOB). Still, whether your brewery sells food or only beer, outdoor drinking is an excellent solution for a festive-but-socially-distanced atmosphere. Here’s what you need to know about setting up a beer garden during Coronavirus.

Getting Started with a Beer Garden

The option to sit outside may give your customers an added sense of comfort, and they may be more willing to visit your beer gardenRight now, as many breweries attempt to tighten their belts to get through this pandemic, it seems counterintuitive to try a new endeavor. Unfortunately, if the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that we must think on our feet and adapt to the new normal. Restaurants and breweries have stayed afloat because they’ve changed their business model to fit regulations.

Does expanding your offerings outdoors increase your business? According to recent anecdotal evidence, yes. Across the nation, cities have opened up permits and allowed restaurants and breweries to provide an outdoor experience to patrons. As Mayor John Ernst of Brookhaven, GA, told USA Today, “With restaurants reopening, we wanted to allow them a bigger footprint so they could serve more but also serve them safer.”

Many businesses can expand their footprint to their surrounding outdoor property, some even being able to utilize city street space. The option to sit outside may give your customers an added sense of comfort, and they may be more willing to patronize your establishment. It also lowers the risk of Coronavirus to your guests and your staff. So far, most studies support the idea that outdoor, socially distanced activities are relatively safe, in terms of virus spread. For brewery owners who MUST reopen and continue to serve patrons to stay afloat, the outdoor option seems like the best solution.

To set up a beer garden, you need outdoor space and planning. Check the permits and rules on outdoor drinking specific to your area. Some cities allow outdoor beverage consumption on your property or within a certain distance of your building. Others are more restrictive, but considering the current situation, most cities are providing accommodations.

Even though summer is rushing by, there’s still time to bring in business with outdoor adaptations. Oktoberfest isn’t until the fall, and if Midwestern weather holds out, you could continue welcoming patrons into early November (though you may want to invest in patio heaters). It’s worth the effort to set up an outdoor service for your guests.

If you have even a small outdoor space near your brewery, you can set up an unofficial “beer garden.” Move tables outdoors and install distance indicators or barriers. You know the capacity of your outdoor space best. Consider converting a shared lot, a yard, or even a sidewalk area into a small beer garden to give visitors a spot to sit and sip their cares away. Even if you only have a few tables, you can boost your traffic by catering to a handful of visitors at a time.

Set Up Rules to Keep Everyone Safe

In the beer garden, you will need to set up some clear, simple rules for guests, such as table limits, to help patrons follow safe social distancing guidelinesThe safer a space feels, the happier your guests will be. Stay up to date on CDC and OSHA guidelines when setting up your beer garden to ensure the health of your customers and employees. Educating your employees on sanitation and safety protocols is imperative, along with requiring masks and gloves, proper handwashing, and even checking temperatures on arrival to work.

In the beer garden, you will need to set up some clear, simple rules for guests, such as table limits, to help patrons mind their P’s and Q’s once they’ve started to feel a buzz from the beer. For example, Estabrook Beer Garden in Milwaukee has a “red/green” system to indicate which tables are available and sanitized.

Social distancing becomes a bit more challenging after one or two drinks (or three or four), so help implement some rules ahead of time. You may want to have a masked employee act as a “table monitor” to help remind guests that they need to keep their distance. Limit tables to parties of 4-6, to ensure the atmosphere stays under control.

At Humboldt Park Beer Garden, timed cleaning and sanitation schedules have become a regular part of beer garden protocol. Employees wipe down tables regularly, ensuring that patrons feel safe and secure while enjoying their drinks.

You may want to take extra precautions too. Some breweries are requesting mask usage until guests are seated at their tables; once seated, guests can remove their masks to enjoy their drinks. In cities like Milwaukee, where recent mandates require all people wear masks when in public, your guests will likely arrive with a mask in place. You may, however, wish to provide extra disposable masks for guests just in case.

At traditional beer gardens, patrons often seat themselves (and share tables), but that’s likely not going to work in our current environment. You may want to take reservations and even have guests wait in their car until their table is free. Keep track of the traffic flow and monitor the table turnover. Again, having designated staff act as the “monitor” will help keep everyone safe and moving.

Post clear signage so guests understand the protocol and know where and how they should wait for a table. Communication is crucial for a positive experience, and it’s important not to assume guests have read the guidelines on your website or notice the small print on your door. You may want to post the rules at each table, near the bar, and by the entry to your beer garden, so everyone is clear.

Set up hand sanitizing stations and consider providing guests with a hand towelette, especially if you are offering food as part of your brewery experience. Eating pretzels, brats, and other traditional beer garden fare requires clean hands (especially if you want to minimize dishes and utensils). You can also offer pre-packaged foods like chips and nuts to give guests a little something to spark their thirst while keeping their germs to themselves.

Keeping the Gemütlichkeit in the Garden

Once the rules and precautions are in place, it’s time to focus on what makes beer gardens a great experience—the fun!Once the rules and precautions are in place, it’s time to focus on what makes beer gardens a great experience—the fun!

Beer gardens originated in Germany as a place of social acceptance and belonging, a cheerful atmosphere where one can unwind and spend quality time with friends and family. While we may need to stay socially distant, today, we can still appreciate the opportunity to relax. 

Typically, beer gardens include some form of entertainment. Live music is common and well received. While you may not have accordion players on the tables, from a distance, live music is still a possibility even during Coronavirus. If you have space to set up a performer safely, it’s an excellent idea that can help bring guests a sense of normalcy and joy.

Trivia has also become a favorite at beer gardens and breweries. Simple trivia night is easy to set up and social distance friendly. While guests shouldn’t be encouraged to linger for long periods, some fast rounds of trivia will bring a welcome escape.

Offering other special events can also attract more customers to your beer garden. Yoga, painting, or biking paired with beer have become popular. Another fun option is to host a tasting with beer flights or to offer a beer education class. While these activities might look a little different under Coronavirus, they can still happen creatively. If you have the outdoor space, you can do a lot to keep patrons engaged.

Another great way to bring people to your brewery is to offer a limited release brew, donating sales to help those affected by the Coronavirus, first responders, or essential employees. Everyone wants to help others right now, so a special brew is an ideal way to answer the call.

Hospitality businesses worldwide have stepped up to the challenges of the Coronavirus, finding innovative ways to serve their customers while implementing new safety measures.  If you don’t have the space for a beer garden, you can at least keep your business (and beer) flowing with curbside pickup. Growlers, cocktail kits, and non-alcoholic drinks are popular options that will give guests a taste of what your brewery has to offer. Remember to focus on traffic flow, frequent communication with customers (an app works great for this), efficiency, and, of course, safety for your customers as well as your employees.

No matter how much Coronavirus has changed the brewery experience, some things remain the same; people will always love to come together to get that sense of joy and Gemütlichkeit. We will make it through this time and return to normalcy. That’s something we can all raise a glass to and toast “Ein Prosit”!


Reliable Water Services is Here for You

Hot water is critical to health, sanitation, and safety in general, but it’s especially vital to the industries we serve—and the majority of those industries are considered essential businesses. As our customers remain operational during these unprecedented times, so does Reliable Water Services.

Making sure our customers have hot water has always been our main priority, and now more than ever, we are here for you. We will continue to provide 24/7 water heater services to our customers, ensuring you have the hot water your business relies on. Our office team is practicing social distancing by working remotely or staying 6 feet apart and wearing our masks while in the office. Meanwhile, our service technicians and installing contractors are following extra safety guidelines to ensure they can service your building safely without putting themselves or your staff members at risk.

Our team at RWS has always viewed the relationship with each of our customers as a partnership. Through this partnership, we will work together and get through these unique and challenging times. As always, should you need service contact us 24/7 at 1-800-356-1444. Stay safe, and be well!