Mill City Roasters has decided to not attend the 2021 SCA Expo. In a statement released yesterday, August 24th, the Minneapolis-based coffee roaster manufacturer states they have opted out of exhibiting on the showfloor, and more significantly, they will no longer be the equipment sponsor for the 2021 US Roaster Championship taking place at Expo.

Per the statement, deciding to forgo a presence as an exhibitor was an “easy decision,” but discontinuing their equipment sponsorship for 2021 “required far more consideration.” The host city, New Orleans—and Louisiana at large—has recently seen a spike in COVID case counts and hospitalizations, due in part to the state having some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Mill City’s announcement comes a week after the SCA released its long-awaited COVID-19 entry guidelines in an open letter from CEO Yannis Apostolopoulos.

In their withdrawal statement, Mill City cites the health and safety of their team as a contributing factor, but logistics also played a big part.

There is, however, no guarantee that our plans would not be catastrophically affected by Covid-19. The pandemic allows no certainty and if moving a several thousand pounds of equipment (nearly) the entire length of the Mississippi River and having it all warmed up and ready to roast on days one through three requires anything, it’s certainty.

Setting aside the worst case scenario that a positive test result for any of us within 14 days of competition may mean we could not attend, logistics to prove that we are safe to participate carry their own challenges.

Mill City goes on to note the logistical issues with COVID testing, which the SCA requires for entry into Expo.

Testing in New Orleans is currently capped at less than 4000 tests per day and only a fraction of those are PCR Tests – and none of the ‘approved’ testing sites on the SCA’s list offer guaranteed timelines of when to expect results. Delayed test results would bar us from entry into the convention center to set up the roasting area.

There is no room for delay and there is no back-up plan. A positive PCR test, delayed PCR test results, or even a lost vaccination card by a critical team member could force a cancellation of the US Roasting Competition.

Per the statement, Mill City suggested to the SCA that the Roasters Championship be moved to a location away from Expo “to a safer time and place,” but states that the SCA was “firm in their conviction that the event move forward at this venue as scheduled.”

When reached for comment, the SCA’s Yannis Apostolopoulos tells Sprudge, printed here in full:

The US Roaster Championships will continue as planned at Expo. We have many committed sponsors and partners—not to mention the many competitors, judges, volunteers, and staff who make the USCC and Expo possible every year.

We respect everyone’s individual decisions and understand that the current situation means that many folks who usually gather at Expo will need to make the difficult choice not to attend the event in NOLA. For many coffee professionals—including many producers and small businesses—attending Expo is key to their business, especially after a tumultuous year and a half. We are committed to doing everything we can to provide a safe space for the many Expo exhibitors and attendees—and USCC participants— who will choose to gather in person next month.

We want to remind everyone of our three entry requirements at Expo: advanced online registration, a negative PCR COVID-19 test valid within 72 hours of badge pick up (for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people), and masks worn inside the venue at all times. We will update these requirements as and when the situation changes. For those traveling to New Orleans who have not received a vaccine and are age-eligible, we recommend taking advantage of the free vaccination centers offered by the City of New Orleans—no ID or social security number required.

We have seen many members of the coffee community at some of the recent coffee events in NOLA and Anaheim, and we look forward to seeing you all at Expo. Expo and the USCC will be a little different in 2021, but it remains the best opportunity for the industry to gather and do business.

The 2021 SCA Expo is scheduled to take place September 30th through October 3rd in New Orleans, Louisiana.

This story is developing…

Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.