A Surly Controversy


Photo Cred: Ian Steele

Minnesota’s Surly Brewing Co is struggling with the rest of us. The brewery is taking a large hit due to the ongoing pandemic/crisis, and with that in mind, they made the decision to close their storied beer hall in Minneapolis. The brewery released an extensive statement via their website, citing numerous reasons for the sudden closure, including “…a crumbling restaurant industry and the demands of city, state and federal COVID-19 health and safety regulations… we have made the gut-wrenching decision to close the Beer Hall indefinitely on Nov. 2.”

This is where the real trouble began.

Around the same time (some weeks ago, according to the statement posted on the brewery website) that the numbers were being crunched to determine the feasibility of maintaining the Beer Hall, the employees of the establishment began working toward unionization. As the announcement came down that the employees would move forward with unionizing, the closure announcement came as well. With the eyes of a struggling nation/industry/world staring at Surly, it appeared that the move came in response to the move toward unionization. This is being called out by lawmakers close to the situation as “union busting,” and is illegal, according to an article posted by CBS Minnesota.

The announcement via the brewery website makes specific mention of this controversy but is careful not to say anything too forward one way or the other, beyond their own defense. According to this announcement, they were made aware of the employees’ intent to unionize on Monday, with the news of the closure going wide yesterday, September 2nd. The statement on these plans/rumors/however you’d like to refer to them, goes as follows: “On Monday, some hospitality employees notified us of their intent to unionize. We respect their decision to turn to an outside organization for representation and will continue the dialogue. That does not change the fact that our plans to close the Beer Hall were put in place weeks ago with the announcement planned for this week.”

Surly has a storied reputation among the brewing community, and would be truly unfortunate to find that those screaming illegal/retaliatory behavior are correct. As for all the employees affected by the closure, we wish the best for them as well. The beer community is stunningly resilient, and I think this will be another prime example of that fact. Best wishes for all involved.