Brewery in Wayzata will close for good, blames COVID-19 shutdowns

The brewery opened in April 2015 on the shores of Lake Minnetonka.
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Wayzata Brew Works in Wayzata is closing for good after nearly five years in business. 

The brewery announced in a news release Tuesday that it will close "immediately," thanking customers and employees who "were the absolute best employees anyone could ask for."

Wayzata Brew Works opened in the Boat Works building at 294 Grove Lane E in downtown Wayzata in April 2015. The brewery featured a taproom and patio on Lake Minnetonka and had plans to also open a distillery. However, that never came to fruition because Minnesota law doesn't allow it

The brewery served as a music venue on the lake, where people could go grab a beer, eat a pizza and listen to local musicians. It also hosted local celebrities, like Chris Hawkey and Kat Perkins, the release said. 

Patrons who commented on Facebook said they were sad to see it was closing, noting they enjoyed the patio and the live music over the years.

Wayzata Brew Works' Kirk Litynski told Bring Me The News that people will still be able to buy to-go beer from the brewery for the next "couple of weeks," with a schedule available on its website

The brewery says the spring COVID-19-related shutdown, which closed breweries and other establishments for weeks, coupled with capacity limits "during our most profitable part of the year on Lake Minnetonka" (the summer) and the most recent four-week shutdown has forced it to close. 

"Our summer was fantastic, from an energy standpoint, but with the restrictions certainly tightened us financially," Litynski told BMTN. 

The brewery criticized Gov. Tim Walz for the shutdowns, saying "a shutdown that doesn't involve any sustainable relief from the governor in order to help alleviate the economic calamity brought to our industry as a result of this decision." 

The Minnesota Legislature has to pass bills to provide state funding, while federal funding has to be approved by Congress. In the wake of the current four-week shutdown, Walz pressured Congress to pass relief funding and has proposed a relief package using state funds, eyeing a package totaling $300-$600 million, to help small businesses and workers.

The governor said in November that once the state House and Senate can come to an agreement on a relief bill, he'll call a special session to pass the legislation. The Democrat-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate have yet to do so. 

"We have many thoughts around the governor’s actions; we will leave it at this – until the governor and others making the decisions around shutdowns and restrictions are personally financially affected by those decisions, those decisions will continue to cause unnecessary financial hardship," the brewery said. 

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The state ordered breweries and other establishments to close for four weeks in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), as of Dec. 3, has investigated 469 bars, restaurants and breweries for suspected transmission of COVID-19 among patrons, noting 6,701 unique cases of COVID-19 reported attending one of the establishments. 

A handful of breweries are on MDH's list of establishments with confirmed outbreaks, but Wayzata Brew Works is not. In the news release, the brewery said it never had a case traced to it. However, it was investigated for two COVID-19-related complaints, Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) spokesperson Margaret Hart told BMTN. 

When the MDA, which licenses breweries in Minnesota, follows up on a complaint it calls it an investigation, and Hart says there was no evidence of any COVID-related executive order violations at Wayzata Brew Works. Hart did say one complaint was closed due to the operator discontinuing operations.

MDA says it has found COVID order violations at other breweries in the state but they have all been resolved. 

The hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent business restrictions. Since March, dozens have closed for good, while others have closed temporarily in hopes of staying afloat until things improve. 

Wayzata Brew Works is believed to be the second brewery in Minnesota to permanently close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The other – the Herkimer in Minneapolis – closed in June after 20 years in business

In a statement to Bring Me The News, Jessica Talley, the associate director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, said: 

"We were saddened to hear of the permanent closure of one of Minnesota's craft breweries this week. 

"Without action from the state, we fear that Minnesota will lose many more small businesses over the coming months. That is why we have worked closely all year with members of the hospitality industry to advocate for crucial aid for hospitality businesses. The closure of Wayzata Brew Works is a stark reminder of why small businesses like Minnesota's craft breweries need relief as soon as possible if they are to survive."

In a letter to Walz in late November, the hospitality industry in Minnesota said the current shutdown could be the end for even more businesses, noting more than half of the restaurants in the state face permanent closure. Here's a running list of restaurants that have closed due to the pandemic. 

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