Blumenthal pushes for more fed aid to help Conn. breweries

MANCHESTER, Conn. (AP) — Sen. Richard Blumenthal is pushing for the extension of federal pandemic aid to restaurants as a way to rescue Connecticut’s struggling craft breweries.

The Democrat toured Labyrinth Brewing company in Manchester on Friday. The brewery was able to survive the downturn in business during the pandemic with the help a PPP loan and a grant from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Others weren’t so fortunate. In addition to Labyrinth, 16 breweries in the state received RRF funding but 100 others were passed over. Seven breweries have closed since the start of the pandemic, including four in the last month: Shebeen in Wolcott, Better Half in Bristol, Cottrell of Pawcatuck and 30 Mile of Old Saybrook.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, all the restaurants shut down, and half of our business disappeared,” Cottrell owner Charlie Buffum told the Hartford Courant. “They say people are drinking more, but they’re not doing it at restaurants.”

Losing more breweries “is not an option,” Blumenthal said Friday. He is part of a bipartisan push to get a $60 billion replenishment for the fund. The $28.6 billion fund, part of the American Rescue Plan, gave grants to more than 100,000 businesses, including about 1,300 in Connecticut.

“This program is an investment in the kind of changes in investment that are required of our breweries,” he said. “I’d rather be debating with one of my colleagues in the United States Senate who’s making the best beer than have those breweries go out of business.”

Connecticut now has 121 craft breweries, Phil Pappas, executive director of the CT Brewers Guild, told the Courant.