Goochland Gazette: Spanberger visits with area distillers

GOOCHLAND GAZETTE, ROSLYN RYAN

For the owners of Hill Top Distillery in Maidens, the road to recovery post-pandemic has been challenging.

On June 8, co-owner Sherry Brockenbrough was able to share her family’s story with U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger, who toured Hill Top and participated in a roundtable discussion about how local businesses are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and how federal relief efforts — including the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which Spanberger voted to pass last March — have helped provided much-needed assistance. 

During the visit, Spanberger also heard about Hill Top Distillery’s experience with one key component of the ARP, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

“Since the pandemic began, I have heard from so many small business owners who are hurting,” said Spanberger. “The hope is that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is going to provide the targeted assistance they need to get through this last phase of the recovery.”

Spanberger was joined during the roundtable discussion by Brockenbrough and her husband John; Barry Haneberg, Founder & Distiller, Virago Spirits, Richmond; Chuck Miller, Master Distiller & Owner, Belmont Farm Distillery, Culpeper; Jeanette Miller, Owner, Belmont Farm Distillery, Culpeper; Rick Wasmund, CEO & Master Distiller, Copper Fox Distillery, Sperryville and Williamsburg; and Jessica Brady, Director of Federal Government Relations, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

“The Seventh District’s small businesses are the drivers of our local economy, and I am proud to see these businesses show strong signs of recovery as we rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis,” said Spanberger. “In Congress, I have been a fervent supporter of critical relief programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, because I have personally heard and seen how these efforts have kept the doors open and dreams alive for so many family-owned businesses in our communities.”

“We greatly appreciate that Representative Spanberger took the time to come out to Hill Top Distillery to hear from Virginia distillers about their experiences and challenges throughout the pandemic,” said Christine LoCascio, Chief of Public Policy, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.  “Across Virginia and the entire country, many small distilleries are struggling after a difficult year. Many had their tasting rooms and tours closed for months on end, and fewer Americans enjoyed a cocktail out, traveled or gathered for events. We urge Congress to provide additional economic support for the hospitality industry so that distilleries can get back to generating jobs and supporting their local economies.”

Since taking office in 2019, Spanberger has taken a number of steps to support area brewers and distillers.

She was a cosponsor of and voted to pass the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which was signed into law in December 2020 and made permanent the federal excise tax cut on distilled spirts that was enacted in 2017. Last year, Spanberger joined a bipartisan group of her colleagues in urging Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy to pass this legislation in the end-of-year funding agreement – particularly as brewers and distillers would’ve faced a significant increase in their federal excise taxes at a time when so many struggled to stay open and keep employees on the payroll.

During a visit to Three Crosses Distilling Company in Powhatan County in August 2020, Spanberger spoke about changes required to help Central Virginia businesses adapt and innovate in response to COVID-19 — including the need to extend and make permanent the federal excise tax cut.

And in March 2020, Spanberger joined a bipartisan effort urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to cut red tape and allow producers of distilled spirits to continue manufacturing hand sanitizer with current supplies in response to shortages caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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