Coronavirus: Huntington Beach brewery owner forced to lay off employees, including his sons

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- The owner of an Orange County family brewery was forced to lay off most of his employees, including his sons.

It came following Gov. Gavin Newsom's directive Sunday to close businesses like brew pubs to help contain the novel coronavirus.

It's their American Dream. Duke Dufresne, his wife Duane and their four sons together in business.

"It's kind of a dream come true for my wife and I to work with our four boys, our grandkids, our daughter-in-laws, you know. Everybody congregates here. We work here and we do things together. We've always done that," Dufresne said.

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A hobby turned into everyone's full-time job in 2014, when Four Sons Brewing opened in Huntington Beach.

Their hard work came to a screeching halt with Gov. Newsom's directive Sunday asking businesses like bars, nightclubs, wineries and brew pubs to close. The goal was to increase social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The reality for small businesses like this one was employee layoffs.

Business down 95% meant letting go of 13 out of 16 employees, including the four sons.

One employee who was laid off was Ryan May.

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"Going from Sunday night, having a steady job, steady income, to Monday morning filing for unemployment and not really knowing when the next paycheck will be or if it's going to be months, weeks," May said.

Curbside beer purchases from locals were about all keeping this company going four days after the governor's directive and its marketing manager, Natalia Pappas, with a job.

"I'm just really blown away by the support that we're getting especially from a lot of our regulars... that has been the coolest thing to see is everybody coming together for small businesses," Pappas said.

Still, the owner said 5% of business was not enough to keep the lights on or the brew flowing too long.

Dufresne filed a claim with his insurance, but said his policy didn't cover viruses like COVID-19, leaving him and other small businesses across the nation at the mercy of legislative action.

"To me, the best way that we could help businesses across the country is to work out a deal where some kind of coverage files through the insurance companies and we provide a lifeline to the small businesses," Dufresne said.

That same can-do attitude once fueling a dream was now keeping families across America hanging on.

"We may have laid off our four sons, but we still get together here at work each day. We find things to do. We need some kind of structure. You need something to keep you going, some kind of focus, some kind of goal, so that's what we're doing," Dufresne said.

The family also owns an events center and a distillery and bar in the same shopping center which have also had to close their doors. Anyone wanting to help out Four Sons Brewing can click here.
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