Small businesses in Central Virginia are picking up the pieces after ‘disastrous’ financial effects of COVID-19

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GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – Small businesses in central Virginia are still recovering from the heavy financial toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken, and there is still some way to go.

United States Representative Abigail Spanberger, who represents Virginia’s 7th District, visited a Goochland distillery on Monday to learn more about the takeover of local businesses. She said businesses in the 7th District are the engines of Virginia’s economy.

The Hill Top Distillery in Goochland opened at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and closed for at least a week when it couldn’t do tastings or serve cocktails.

Now they are using help from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to be able to stay open until the end of the year, which brings them into their second year.

“It was scary,” said Sherry Brockenbrough, co-owner of Hill Top Distillery. Brockenbrough owns and operates the distillery with her husband and son.

The Hill Top Distillery in Goochland closed for a week during the pandemic because it could not sell cocktails or offer tastings. Today, the company is one of many to benefit from assistance from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. (Photo: 8News Reporter Sabrina Shutters)

Virginia Distillers Association secretary and treasurer Barry Haneberg also knows firsthand the effects of the pandemic, as a distiller himself at Virago Spirits in Richmond.

“It was disastrous for us, especially in the first few months,” he said.

The Hill Top Distillery closed for at least a week because it could not do tastings or serve cocktails.

“When we opened our doors on March 5, we really had no idea this was all going to happen,” said Brockenbrough.

With the state reopening, Representative Spanberger said Monday that Virginia was starting to see bright signs of recovery.

Brockenbrough said that one of the main reasons it could keep its doors open was that the people of Goochland and Powhatan were choosing to buy their booze instead of going to an ABC store.

“Our community, Goochland County and Powhatan, these people have come together for us,” she said.

Representative Spanberger co-sponsored and voted in favor of the passage of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, enacted in December 2020, which made the reduction in the federal excise tax on distilled spirits.

Haneberg said Representative Spanberger’s help in making the federal excise tax reduction on distilled spirits permanent has been of great help, but the recovery continues.

“Business is back, people are buying spirits, people are supporting them, but there is a big surplus. You took out a year of loans, personal loans that you took out to support your businesses and you still have to sort of fix that, ”Haneberg said.

Brockenbrough said things were improving and this weekend alone they served eight couples who had never been to Hill Top Distillery.

As for restaurant workers whose wages are still just over $ 2 an hour plus tips, Rep. Spanberger told 8News that she is still in favor of raising the minimum wage. .



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