How beer helped save this Seattle pizza chain

An employee at Zeeks Pizza prepares for the lunch take-out and delivery rush at the restaurant's Capitol Hill location on April 9, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. A temporary loosening of Washington's alcohol laws have allowed for restaurants such as Zeeks to deliver draft beer in 64-ounce glass growlers. (CNN)

(CNN) – When Covid-19 struck Washington State and the greater Seattle area locked down to mitigate the spread, Zeeks Pizza saw 60% of its business evaporate.

The homegrown pizza chain, which has expanded to 17 restaurants since its 1993 founding, lost its dining room, bar and catering business, resulting in the layoffs of 120 employees -- about a quarter of its workforce.

"We just very single-mindedly went into the position of, 'We've got to get through to the other side so that people's jobs are still there, and we can bring those people back,'" Dan Black, Zeeks' president told CNN Business.

Fortunately, Zeeks could lean on the remaining legs of its business -- take-out and delivery. But ultimately, the biggest lift came from an unexpected source: Its beer taps.

A temporary loosening in Washington State's alcohol laws allowed for curbside pick-up and delivery of draft beer and mixed drinks. That meant Zeeks, which for the past two years was allowed to deliver bottles and cans of beer, could expand that service to include its acclaimed draft beer lineups.

"People have embraced it in a really big way," Black said. "And they've realized that not only is beer delivery a thing, they've realized that Zeeks is the best at it, and so it has really been the main thing that has propelled us through [Covid-19]."

Zeeks sells about 1,500 growlers, or 64-ounce glass jugs, of beer per week across its restaurants, Black said. Pre-coronavirus, it sold about 150 growlers of beer per week via its restaurants' take-out business.

"We actually almost ran the Northwest completely out of growlers when it hit," Black said of the vessels that hold the beer.