SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) – Citing record numbers of COVID-19 cases in Sonoma County and a recently-enacted health order, the Russian River Brewing Company announced Wednesday that its annual release of Pliny the Younger beer has been postponed to spring.
The brewery said the release, which has become an annual pilgrimage for beer connoisseurs to their pubs in Santa Rosa and Windsor, has been rescheduled from March 25 through April 7. Pliny the Younger is usually released in early February.
“Given our own internal staffing struggles along with the latest health order from our County, Vinnie and I made the difficult decision to postpone this year’s Pliny the Younger release. For the safety of not only our employees but our community at large, this was the only responsible and logical choice to make given all of these contributing factors,” owner Natalie Cilurzo said in a statement.
Russian River Brewing said the brewery itself has encountered a surge of COVID-19 cases on its own. Last week, the brewery had to close both locations due to staffing issues as a result.
“We’re having an unprecedented surge in cases in the county and also in our company. We’ve had 20 employees test positive since before Christmas. We haven’t even had 20 employees get COVID this whole time,” Cilurzo told KPIX 5 on Wednesday.
Cilurzo said the company has never had so many employees out for any time for any reason, including the evacuations from the massive wildfires that have struck Sonoma County in recent years.
The omicron surge, Sonoma County’s recently-enacted health order to limit indoor gatherings, along with pleas from health officials urging people to stay home over the next month, prompted Russian River to postpone the event that draws more than $5 million to the local economy.
“Last year, we had to cancel it because of COVID. This year, we had to postpone it because of COVID,” Cilurzo said. “And so I think every year is an improvement and hopefully next year we’ll be able to have it right on time.”
Russian River though is not the only Sonoma County business having to pause business as usual. The Lost Church theater in Santa Rosa also announced it would close temporarily due to the health order.
“It has been difficult. It also was a bit predictable,” said Bryce Dow-Williamson, the theater’s general manager.
The Lost Church has had to postpone 14 acts and cancel one due to the new order, which went into effect on Wednesday.
“We have more skills and abilities to survive and to pivot and pivot and pivot again,” Dow Williamson told KPIX 5.
While it could technically still open to a crowd of 49 people, live performance venues wouldn’t even be able to break even with a small crowd.
“Just because 49 people could show up does not mean they will,” Dow-Williamson said. “It might take two to three times the effort than it would normally take for half or quarter to show up.”
Sonoma County’s health order restricting gatherings is expected to continue through at least February 11.
Andrea Nakano contributed to this report.