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Oregon Distillers Stabilize After Pandemic Shock

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Despite significant operational disruptions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Oregon’s craft distillers are cautiously optimistic about their economic future according to an industry report made to the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC).  

The Oregon Distillers Guild shared that business outlook at the March 17, 2022 OLCC Commission meeting.

The Distillers Guild shared with Commissioners that only two Oregon distillers have permanently closed as a result of the pandemic. The distillers group pointed to emergency rules approved by the OLCC, including allowing individual consumer online sales and curbside product pickup at distilleries and tasting rooms for helping them survive. These business focused policy changes enabled distillers to generate income when bars and restaurants closed.

According to the Guild there are now 78 craft distilleries in Oregon, more than the 71 located in the bourbon famous state of Kentucky, which gives Oregon the highest per capita number of distilleries in the U.S. based on population. Annual sales from Oregon craft distillers at OLCC liquor stores, which guarantees shelf space for Oregon distilled products, increased from $63M in 2020 to $67M in 2021.

The Guild also emphasized support from the OLCC for legislation approved in 2020 allowing distillers to keep a higher percentage of revenue from tasting room sales as a crucial change that is transforming tasting rooms from loss leaders for product marketing into modest profit centers.

“Smaller companies have different needs than bigger companies,” said Tom Burkleaux of the Oregon Distillers Guild. “We appreciate the partnership with the OLCC in helping us make a place for people like me to actually invest and grow a company and do the hard work to try to make this industry successful.”

As the industry continues to “re-open”, Oregon’s distillers are focused on penetrating markets in other states despite limited support from national distributors. Guild representatives told the Commission they expect the Oregon brand of distilled spirits will expand in popularity as long as the industry remains successful in its home state.

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