Ska Street, a joint venture between Ska Brewing and Peach Street Distillers, recently held its grand opening but had to lay off all but one employee afterwards.

A row of tap handles inside Ska Street, a joint venture between Ska Brewing and Peach Street Distillers, in Boulder, Colorado

Ska Brewing Lays Off All But One After Grand Opening

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Ska Street Brewstillery, a collaboration between Durango’s Ska Brewing and Palisade’s Peach Street Distillers, had its grand opening in Boulder on March 16th, a day that should have been a celebration of all the work that went into opening up the new “brewstillery” at 1600 38th St.

“It was a lot of work put into finally making that happen, and a lot of excitement not just for us, but the community seemed to be excited,” said owner David Thibodeau. “There was a great energy around it.”

While the coronavirus was in the news and social distancing was already being encouraged, employees were busy setting up chairs and stools at safe distances hoping they would be allowed to remain open.

“The place had a really great vibe, and all the employees were ready to go,” said bartender Larry White.

Instead, less than two hours into Ska Street’s grand opening, Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued an order restricting all restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery, one of the first in a coming wave of orders and restrictions to try and stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We got to this pinnacle of excitement and energy, and an hour after we open up it felt like the rug was just yanked out from underneath us,” Thibodeau said.

It is a feeling that a lot of breweries and brewpubs are dealing with, as the industry prepares to deal with unprecedented restrictions for an unknown period of time.

“If you run a taproom or a brewpub, it’s simply devastating,” said Bob Pease, the president and CEO of the Brewers Association. Pease also noted the impact on breweries will have ripple effect on other industries.

“Our impact goes beyond selling beer,” Pease said. “There is the agricultural component, the manufacturing component, hospitality, transportation. The impact is substantial.”

Pease said the Brewers Association is doing what it can to help members at the Capitol. The recent stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump contained provisions that Pease said should help brewers, and they will continue to lobby for more help going forward.

In the meantime, all brewery owners can do is make the decisions that are best for them and their employees — the right moves so that people can come back.

And should that day come, Ska Street will have at least one of its former employees ready to pour beer again.

“I plan to go back,” White said. “I love the company, and that’s where I want to be. A lot of good people worked there.”

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