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Surly Beer Hall calls it quits the same week employees were working to unionize

Surly said the economics of COVID-19 forced its hand to close the massive beer hall, but employees looking to unionize say this decision now is suspect.

MINNEAPOLIS — Late this morning, Surly Brewing announced online its 20-million-dollar beer hall, restaurant, gift shop and events venue would close indefinitely come November 2.

Surly said its reason was COVID19.

In a statement Surly said:

"As we complied fully with the safety measures, it became clear that beer halls are by definition gathering places and gathering places and pandemics don't mix...try as we might to keep the doors open and our team employed the writing was on the wall: there was no longer a way forward for the beer hall."

Surly went on to say beer hall revenue is down 82% compared with the same time last year and if they stayed open, they said they would lose at least another three quarters of a million dollars this winter.

So that's the economics of this.

But something else was going on at Surly this week that has some saying this was not just about economics.

More than 100 workers told the brewery management on Monday they were working to unionize.

LOCAL 17 spokesman Sheigh Freeberg said when he learned of the closing, right after the call to unionize, he was skeptical.

"I think it's very clearly an illegal act of retaliation and intimidation, disgusting and not what we have come to expect from a Minnesota brand like that,” Freeberg said.

Freeberg said 150 workers got an email Wednesday telling them they would be laid off, come November 2 just before the word came to the rest of us online about the beer hall closure.

And Surly, in its announcement did address, the issue of staff signaling they would unionize just two days ago saying:

"The timing of this announcement is not ideal...our plans to close the beer hall were put in place weeks ago with the announcement planned for this week."

Late Wednesday, the beer hall did not open for businesses.

A spokesperson for Surly said: “We’re closing the beer hall tonight out of respect for the employees that were notified that in 60-days they would be laid off.” 

The Surly spokesperson said staff who were scheduled to work on Wednesday evening will be paid for their shifts.

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