Last week Peruvians were dismayed by a tragedy which resulted from people violating the government prohibition on social gatherings during the pandemic. More than 100 young people had gathered at an informal discotheque for a birthday celebration. When, following complaints from neighbors, the police arrived to break it up, dozens of intoxicated revelers tried to flee via the locale’s sole narrow exit, resulting in a crush which claimed thirteen lives.
Of the twenty-three people arrested, fifteen tested positive for COVID-19.
Public indignation grew more intense when cellphone video surfaced of non-masked friends and relatives drinking and dancing in the cemetery following entombment of one of the deceased.
This, all following a long list of cases of curfew and social distancing violations involving alcohol, reportedly led Walter Martos, head of President Martín Vizcarra’s Ministerial Council, to pose the possibility of a “Dry Law” banning alcohol in the country.
Peru’s craft brewer’s association, the Unión de Cerveceros Artesanales del Perú (UCAP), was quick to respond to this threat to the health of its sector and the livelihood of its members. Below is my translation of the letter they sent to the Production Minister:
Lima, 27th of August of 2020
Señor José Salardi Rodríguez
Minister of Production
Dear Mr. Minister,
There have been made public today the declarations of the president of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Walter Martos, in which the possibility is floated of declaring a “Dry Law” in the whole country. In that regard, we wish to make you aware of the current situation of the Peruvian Craft Brewers MYPES [Micro and Small Industries] sector:
● Peruvian craft breweries are in a critical state, having lost more than 50% of our sales due to the strains brought about by the pandemic.
● More than 20% of craft breweries have had to close their doors permanently
● Breweries that continue to operate have had to reduce their personnel by 40% on average (more than 200 direct jobs and 2000 indirect ones have been lost to date).
● During the first 6 weeks of the state of emergency there existed a “tacit dry law”. During that time, in which there was the highest control by the authorities, we witnessed the proliferation of a “black market” in alcoholic beverages.
● A temporary dry law at this time would not help solve the root problem. The black market would continue, hurting small producers, especially formal ones.
● Given its flavor characteristics and price point, craft beer is an alcoholic beverage of moderation and is not the cause of agglomerations nor of irresponsible acts.
● Those craft breweries who are still functioning do so with all the established protocols and approvals from the Health Ministry and the Production Ministry. This work is undertaken with great effort and at a very high cost.
● A temporary Dry Law would bring about the closure of these enterprises and the temporary or permanent loss of more than 400 direct jobs and more than 2000 indirect ones.
● In short: A temporary Dry Law would be the coup de grace to our weakened sector and its job generation.
Within our sector, we have direct and immediate communication with our consumer through our social media. We offer to be communicators and to contribute to spreading the message of the Central Government, which looks for us to be responsible in difficult times.
We hope that you could be the voice that represents us in conversations with the Prime Minister, and who promotes solutions to problems.
Unión de Cerveceros Artesanales del Perú