The Independent Brewers Association (IBA) has aligned with the Australian Distillers Association (ADA) to write a letter to the government calling for support and solutions for independent brewes and distillers.

There are around 650 independent breweries and 280 independent distilleries across Australia represented by these two bodies and they are facing considerable hardships if they don’t receive some kind of relief from the government.

The letter commends the recent government support for small business, but stresses that this will not overcome the massive damage suffered by its members during the crisis, “with up to 100% of revenue being lost by many members – particularly those in regional and rural Australia”.

“If this is a protracted affair that goes on for six months, we could lose the whole industry,” Pete Philip, chairman of the IBA, told Beer & Brewer. “Very few can survive that kind of shock without some specific government support. Survival is not a foregone conclusion. If we don’t get something then a lot of breweries will go to the wall.”

The letter highlights the critical role that independent breweries and distilleries now play – especially in regional areas – both as a local employer and a community hub. Up to 5,500 jobs are at risk of being lost if dramatic steps aren’t taken, with many businesses having already been forced to stand down 50% of their workforce.

However, if breweries are able to survive then their popularity could serve as critical tourism drawcards that could revitalise communities.

A ‘Vision for Recovery’ has been put forward to “greatly reduce the strain on these small businesses and provide a strong springboard to allow these businesses to recover once conditions begin to improve”.

A support package called for by the IBA last week, proposing a suspension of excise for small, independent brewers for a period of six months. However, given the potential complexity of such an arrangement, the IBA and the ADA have considered alternative opportunities to support independent brewers and distillers without the need for legislative change.

The letter asks the government to consider:

  • Increase the small brewers and distillers rebate to $350,000 on a two-year trial basis;
  • Have the new rebate apply to the current 2020 financial year as well as the 2021 financial year;
  • Increase the rate from the current level of 60% to 100% of excise payable up to the $350,000 cap;
  • Allow brewers and distillers to pay their excise net of any rebate rather than needing to pay excise and claim a refund.

Philip is due to host a Webinar at 3pm on Thursday 26 March with other independent brewers.

“What we want to talk about are what are the strategies to help breweries survive,” Philip tells Beer & Brewer. “What’s been successful out there, what are some ideas that we can all help each other with? What’s the strategy to keep a little bit of revenue coming in?

“We’re all very rapidly learning and taking inspiration from each other. If someone comes up with a good idea we’re replicating it, which is fantastic.

“We will also be launching our campaign #KeepingLocalAlive campaign. That’s going to be a big push to the public and the trade to try to promote local breweries and local businesses and get consumers behind this idea that they can play an active role in helping these businesses survive.

“If someone’s walking into a bottleshop that’s a mainstream beer drinker, we want them to consider an independent beer because there’s an independent beer out there for everybody. And, who knows, it might become their favourite beer!

“Australians have an amazing, charitable nature and I think everybody wants to help independent breweries and we just need to let them know the best way to do that.”

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