Start. Stop. Start again, more cautiously. Stop again. 

Here we are— summer is over, seven months into the new pandemic economy, and we’re all hoping for a return to “normalcy” in the not-too-distant future. 

The Unpack is all about starting a conversation and shining a spotlight on topics we face in the wine and spirits industry. So, let us know what you think about this topic.

ByQuest recently hosted a virtual cocktail hour #5pmclink as part of the American Distilling Institute annual conference, held virtually this year (“ADI” Participating craft distillers represented New York, Florida, Texas, California, Nevada, New Hampshire and Connecticut. The purpose was to toast each other while discussing ways to resuscitate our craft distilleries. There was lively discussion. Some described these days as “The Covid Economy,” and there were a few critical “intentions” that surfaced in our brief discussion. Here are three that most resonated with participants. Let us know if you agree or disagree.

1.Craft Distillers tend to be nimble by nature. We need this innovative behavior to continue now more than ever. Buy Local. Drink Local.

We saw this when the pandemic first surfaced and craft distillers quickly rose up to meet the demand for hand sanitizer. Now that traditional sanitizing brands are meeting the demand, it’s time for craft distillers to envision the next new thing.

There was general agreement that craft distillers are the incubators for new innovations in the spirits industry. This is the kind of innovation that comes from being super close to customers and being natural risk-takers and entrepreneurs. The entire industry gets a lift from this segment. Don’t you agree?

2. The industry needs the next reinvention—now. In order to generate revenue, post-hand-sanitizers, the industry needs another re-invention.  Most people agreed that someday in the future, there will be a vaccine or therapies that mitigate the harm Covid-19 can do. This may not happen soon enough for many craft distilleries to survive. None of the participants felt that they, by themselves, could find the silver bullet for reinvention. 

In fact, just the opposite idea came forward: The need for COLLABORATION and uniting together as a business and political coalition.  The idea of “be local/buy local” has never been more meaningful for the craft market. Another idea was to collaborate with local restaurants who need help, too.

Some acknowledged a couple of the legislative landmarks that have happened since the start of the Covid Economy. One is DIRECT TO CONSUMER, which is enjoyed by the wine industry but not yet in spirits. The sole exception happened in April with KENTUCKY AB 415. Optimistically, many felt that if this could happen there, it could be a test case for many more states. Another new legislative example is the COCKTAILS TO GO movement, which started at the beginning of the Covid Economy. Think about the decades of “no open container laws” that have now fallen with the advent of this new initiative, thanks to the Distilled Spirits Council (, Spirits United ( and ADI. Both regulatory constraints have changed in record time. What else could our public servants do for this class of trade?

3. Are there “stages of Covid” that can help craft distillers create a roadmap for going to market?

Given the start-stop-start again yo-yo we’ve been experiencing, can we agree that there are clear stages of the “Covid Economy?” If so, how could the industry best address each stage? 

Consider these four different stages:  1- Total SIP (shelter in place); 2- Limited interaction/No groups congregating; 3- Some group interaction; 4- Back to normal, Pre-Covid Economy. Each phase could require a different business behavior. Are we missing any stage? 

What would you recommend for craft distillers for each of these phases? Can we unite by locality, by region, by state to gain some critical mass?

It was great to have this interaction with one of our favorite customer groups.  We learned that being local is important to the market for two key reasons: an employment base and an innovation engine. Right now, legislators are scratching their heads to find ways to nudge the economy forward. So let’s get their help now and keep our creative craft industry and innovating. Please join the conversation! 

@craftlives;@byquestbrands; #5pmclink; @5pmclink; @americandistilling  @DistilledSpiritsCouncilUS  #rallyforcraft#leadingspiritsbrands#spiritsbrands#postCovid19#winebrands#shelterinplacecocktails  #buylocaldrinklocal