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‘It’s been a godsend’: Outdoor patios, to-go beers are the new bar hopping

Four people sit at an outdoor patio at Fishers Brewing Company
Max Dillman, Amanda Best, Amanda’s husband Brian Best, Heather Langley, and Langley’s dog Ryker sit around a picnic table on the patio at Fisher Brewing Company. The group says they appreciate the opportunity to get together. (Riley Hayes)

Before COVID-19 hit, Fisher Brewing Company in Salt Lake City based its business on community and social gatherings in the taproom or on the patio. Because the pandemic stopped people from gathering in large groups, Fisher Brewing has made changes to both the business and the experience.

“Our business got flipped upside-down,” said Steven Brown, one of the founders of Fisher. “Our whole business is based on people gathering. We make and sell all of our beer here, and that’s it. By design, we’ve always been a neighborhood brewery taproom.”

Once it reopened, the company focused on to-go orders. Beer was sold from the lobby and front porch. The taproom of the brewery remains closed, but they have opened the patio to accommodate guests.

Nick Sheer, a senior business management major at Westminster College, tried out Fisher for the first time Friday, looking for new ways to socialize safely amid the pandemic.

“I’ve been to drinking establishments a few times since COVID, and this is definitely the first outdoor one I’ve been to,” Sheer said. “I feel like it’s a pretty safe place.”

At Fisher Brewing Company, Westminster senior Nick Sheer and his girlfriend Crea Harvey order through the window Feb. 20. Employees and guests are both required to wear masks when they leave their outdoor tables, maintaining safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Riley Hayes)

Employees said the business wanted to focus on safety while still providing a sense of normalcy. 

“They completely transformed the whole thing — we were like a bar-bar and [the business] just said, ‘Ok, this is what we’re gonna do,’” said Megan Jepson, a bartender at Fisher. “We’re gonna change our whole business model, first we’ll just do to-gos. And every few months it would be, ‘Now we’re gonna try this, now we’re gonna try this,’ and [the business leaders were] super adaptable, very creative and killed it.”

Amanda Best and Heather Langley, regulars at Fisher, said they thought Fisher is adapting well to the pandemic.  Because the patio is outside, Langley is able to bring her dog Ryker along, which she said adds to the benefits of outdoor seating during the pandemic.

“They did a lot of to-go orders, which I appreciated,” Best said. “They were open, we could purchase to-go beers, and the fact that they’re opening up the outdoor area is helping.”

The patio is covered by tents and warmed by standing heaters. Picnic and smaller tables are spread out in the space, and masks are required while away from the tables.  

“They made the outdoors [into] the semi-outdoors,” said Max Dillman, another Fisher regular. “It’s warm and nice. Work with what you’ve got.”

Rather than coming up to the bar to order, there is a window that connects from the patio to the taproom. Guests wait in line socially distanced and are required to wear a mask. 

Jepson, one of the bartenders who takes orders at the window, said guests are good at wearing their masks when away from the table and ordering.  

“It’s been a godsend to have this place be so safe,” Jepson said.

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Riley Hayes
Riley Hayes is a senior majoring in both communication and outdoor education and leadership (OEL). She aims to combine her communication and OEL knowledge to improve accessibility in outdoor recreation. In between her time spent camping, hiking, rock climbing and traveling, Riley experiments with creative media.

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