Calwise Spirits Calls for Support of Local Small Businesses on ‘Repeal Day’

Calwise Spirits Co. Owner Aaron Bergh Says the Irony of Shutting Down the Alcohol Industry on the 87th Anniversary of the End of Prohibition Should Make People Pause

After waking up to news that all restaurants, bars, distilleries, breweries and wineries must cease indoor and outdoor service within 24 hours, Proprietor and Master Distiller Aaron Bergh of Calwise Spirits Co. is speaking out, stepping up and joining his peers in creating new offerings that will enable San Luis Obispo County community to support local businesses.

Bergh plans to sell fresh bottled cocktails to-go alongside a corndog meal, thereby meeting the requirement to offer takeout options. He also plans to continue selling bottles of his spirits and cocktail gift packs on-site and through his online store.

“It’s ironic that on Repeal Day—the 87th anniversary of the end of the now-condemned Prohibition of alcohol—the State of California is requiring all San Luis Obispo County businesses that serve alcohol to close down both indoor and outdoor operations indefinitely,” said Bergh, who is known for producing craft whiskey, gin, and rum at his distillery in south Paso Robles.

As with hundreds of other businesses throughout the Central Coast, this is the fourth time that Bergh has been required to close down significant portions of his distillery since March. He is concerned with what the new indefinite closure could mean for his business and many others in his community.

“This latest shutdown not only erodes the viability of local business owners, it affects the economic, medical and educational welfare of our employees and their households,” he said. “I think that we can be deeply concerned about Covid while still questioning our decision makers, because knee-jerk policies have the potential to do serious long-term damage.”

Bergh noted that according to the most recent county data, only a small fraction of local hospital beds are in use by Covid-affected patients, including just one ICU bed out of a total of 53.

“The idea of our local hospitals becoming overwhelmed terrifies me and I believe we should prevent this from happening,” he said. “Fortunately, our county is already doing a good job at mitigating the virus, which is why these new restrictions are unnecessary.”

He added, “If even outside dining at local bars, restaurants and winery tasting rooms are causing a significant threat to public health, then where is the data to support that—and why are the local hospital numbers so low?”

Bergh applauded local Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, who noted that Governor Newsom’s new regional Stay Home Order makes San Luis Obispo County’s level of openness dependent on the capacity of the Los Angeles region’s hospitals hundreds of miles away. Cunningham called the state’s regional groupings “arbitrary and irrational,” and stated, “The Administration must alter this nonsensical regional map to better take into account our area’s unique situation and hospital bed capacity,”

After opening its doors in June of 2018, Calwise Spirits Co. was the first distillery on the Central Coast to have a full bar and restaurant. Bergh distributes his spirits throughout the state of California, in hundreds of cocktail bars and chain stores such as Whole Foods, Bevmo, and Total Wine. In March, Bergh had to cease operation of his bar and restaurant and distribution sales plummeted as other bars stopped purchasing spirits because they had to close their operations. To address a dire need in his community, Bergh retooled his distillery to manufacture and supply more than 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to first responders and medical servants throughout the state.

“Small businesses are integral to creating innovation and culture in our community” Bergh said. “Owners are just trying to keep their people employed and put food on the table for their families. It’s now more important than ever to go out and support them and the diversity they create. This holiday season—and beyond—shop local!”

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