Bars & Taverns Face Long Road Back from Pandemic Damage

During National Tavern Month This May: Support Your Local Bars & Taverns

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                             

May 7, 2021      

BETHESDA, MD — After more than a year of shutdowns, layoffs and unprecedented challenges, America’s bars and taverns are starting to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.  But despite recent improvements, these small businesses still face a long road back to recovery.

This May, in the spirit of National Tavern Month, American Beverage Licensees (ABL) and its members are calling on everyone to do their part to help local bars and taverns get back in the business of serving their communities.

“It’s understandable that we all want to move forward and put the last year behind us,” said ABL Executive Director John Bodnovich.  “But in doing so, we must keep in mind that many local bars and taverns remain in need of relief and support as they look to re-hire, re-supply, re-train and re-open at sustainable business levels.”

From March 2020 through March 2021, bar and restaurant sales of beer, wine and spirits declined by $90 billion.  This amounts to a loss of 8.3 billion 12-ounce servings of beer; 4.0 billion 5-ounce glasses of wine; and 10.9 billion 1.5-ounce spirits cocktails.  These staggering losses were accompanied by the loss of over 1.1 million on-premise jobs and more than $29 billion in lost wages for bar and restaurant workers.  (Source: John Dunham & Associates. American Beverage Licensees COVID-19 Impact Model.)

“We’re asking everyone – from the White House to our friends, family and neighbors – to lend a hand in supporting America’s Main Street hospitality businesses,” said Bodnovich.  “Everyone can do their part – in big ways and small – to help these ‘friendliest places in town’ get back to what they do best: providing jobs and offering a ‘third place’ for people to gather and share their favorite beverages and conversation.”

“We may have been physically distant for much of the past year, but if we’ve learned anything from this terrible pandemic, it’s that the need to be socially connected remains as important as ever.”

There are many ways in which to support local bars and taverns now and as the country emerges economically and socially from the COVID-19 crisis:


  • White House – Federal government agencies like the Small Business Administration (SBA) are working with bars and taverns to make sure they can access grant funds, loans and other small business relief measures. Others, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are tasked with helping businesses know how to reopen responsibly.  By streamlining loan and grant processes for busy bar and tavern owners, and by providing clear guidelines to businesses and the public, the Administration can help businesses get moving again and build consumer confidence in safely visiting their favorite bar or tavern.


  • Congress – Thanks to programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), Congress has given many bar and tavern businesses a fighting chance to continue to serve as job providers and engines in the service economy. But the work is not finished.  By passing the RESTAURANTS Act (H.R. 793; S. 255) and the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act (H.R. 1346; S. 477), Congress can help bars and taverns with grants and tax credits to get back to stability and running their businesses.


  • State Governments – Bar and tavern groups have worked with their governors, legislators, and regulators to navigate regulatory and policy paths to survive during the pandemic. These relationships and communications need to remain robust to ensure that public officials fully understand the hospitality industry, the professionalism of its practitioners, and how best to help it thrive.


  • Industry – While others in the beverage alcohol industry were able to pivot their business approaches during the pandemic, bars and taverns had limited options to change their business models. Now with reopening, on-premise businesses are eager to see product availability and a level of account service from their wholesaler and supplier partners that will help them promote and provide trusted and new products to consumers, benefitting the entire industry.


  • Guests – Like a professional athlete making a comeback, getting back to “normal” may take some time as bars and taverns re-open under different public health guidelines and operating procedures. Keep in mind that a little bit of patience and empathy for local small businesses as they manage these transitions goes a long way.


This May, join ABL and state associations representing bars and taverns in supporting Main Street businesses as they fight to keep serving their communities.  With the help of their customers, communities, industry and elected leaders, local bars and taverns will overcome the challenges of COVID-19 and continue the great American traditions of conviviality and hospitality at what remains the Friendliest Place in Town, your local tavern.