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CEO DATELINE – Brewers, video game groups cancel public events as COVID-19 concerns linger

April 6, 2021
By Walt Williams 

Two associations are canceling in-person public events scheduled for later this year, with at least one group citing COVID-19 restrictions on large public gatherings in its decision.

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The Entertainment Software Association announced Tuesday that its popular E3 video game industry trade show will be held as a virtual-only event in June. The Brewers Association announced Monday that it was canceling this year’s Great American Beer Festival in early October, a public event that typically draws thousands of people to sample craft beers. However, the group is moving forward with an in-person, industry-only trade show in September.

Both events are unusual in the association world as they are open to the public rather than restricted to attendees from industry and media. At the same time, most cancellations so far have been for association events held in the first half of 2021, with groups either moving their trade shows and conferences online or pushing them back to the second half of the year.

ESA canceled E3 in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. In a statement, the association didn’t cite the pandemic as the reason for the cancellation for this year’s event, instead saying it was planning a “reimagined, all-virtual E3 2021 that will engage video game fans everywhere.”

“For more than two decades, E3 has been the premier venue to showcase the best that the video game industry has to offer, while uniting the world through games,” E3 CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis said. “We are evolving this year’s E3 into a more inclusive event, but will still look to excite the fans with major reveals and insider opportunities that make this event the indispensable center stage for video games.”

This year’s E3 was originally planned as an in-person event to take place in Los Angeles in June. Paperwork previously filed with the city suggested ESA planned to cancel the in-person portion of the event, industry news outlets reported. The virtual event will take place from June 12-15, with the association planning an in-person E3 in 2022.

The Brewers Association’s annual Craft Brewers Conference & Brew Expo America is currently scheduled to take place from Sept. 9-12 in Denver. Last year’s craft brewers conference was canceled and moved online because of the pandemic. This year’s conference is currently planned as an in-person event with several precautions in place, including requiring attendees to wear face masks and avoid handshakes.

The Great American Beer Festival will not be held this year given lingering concerns about the safety of large indoor gatherings. The craft beer competition normally held as part of the festival will be conducted earlier, with the awards ceremony Sept. 10 during the conference.

“We are disappointed to cancel the festival portion of GABF for the second year in a row,” BA CEO Bob Pease said in a statement. BA announced the public could take advantage of a national passport program Sept. 17-Oct. 17.

“Passport holders will have exclusive access to deals at participating breweries nationwide,” the association said. “More than 1,100 breweries from all 50 states participated in the inaugural program last year.”

Passports are $20 and will be available for purchase in July. Registration for the program opens June 29 at