It has been a particularly difficult year for craft distilleries, as the closure of tasting rooms, bars, and restaurants due to COVID-19 has significantly impacted their revenue streams. In response, e-commerce site Spirit Hub has announced a new nonprofit organization to provide financial assistance to independent craft distillers via grants. The Spirit Hub Independent Distillery Preservation Fund is governed by an independent board of craft distillers and other alcohol professionals, with Kent Rabish, founder of Michigan’s Grand Traverse Distillery, serving as board president.
“It seems there’s been a number of things happening in the marketplace that are going to make things a little more difficult and have made things more difficult for craft distillers,” Rabish says. “So this is something that can certainly help. It can put some needed money in some pockets to keep distilleries going and help with some of their ventures.”
Crafting the Qualifications
Spirit Hub has kicked off fundraising by donating an initial $10,000 and has committed to matching all donations made at the point of purchase on its website. While the board is still formulating the application for grants, Rabish says that a few criteria are already in place: Distillers must be fully independent, have a Distilled Spirits Permit, and have a minimum of two years in operation.
As for what kinds of requests will be receiving grants, Rabish says that he’s curious to see incoming applications but that the fund likely won’t be able to save struggling distilleries from closing. “I can see this going towards helping companies grow and if someone gets into a really tight bind where a small amount can help them, that’s fantastic,” he says. “I look at this, with money being extremely tight and the federal excise tax most likely going up [in 2021], well, that just takes a little bit more money out of your pocket to purchase new equipment and to expand—to do the things you’d like to do to grow. That’s where I’m sure this is going to be helpful for businesses.”
Rabish says that Traverse City Distillery itself could use some new infusion equipment, citing that need as an example of what others in his position might ask for (though, as a board member, Rabish is precluded from seeking funds for his own company). “I suspect we’re not any different than probably a lot of distilleries. I can see people coming in going, ‘Hey, this is what we’re looking for. Can we get some help?’ And those are the kinds of things I think I’d like to see.”
Distilleries do not need to sell their products on Spirit Hub, which has over 100 partners, to receive grants, and Rabish says there is no minimum or maximum amount that they can request. He hopes to be able to award grants on a monthly basis, saying, “The goal is to try to help as many people as we can.”