Additional Guidance For Wineries in Light of Recent Government Actions
Since the Governor’s announcement on Sunday recommending the temporary suspension of on-premise alcoholic beverage businesses, including winery tasting rooms, certain cities and counties have instituted “Shelter-in-Place” ordinances, and both the California ABC and the California Wine Institute have issued additional guidance on the operation of alcohol beverage licensed premises, including wineries.
Given the various orders and guidance currently in place, we have provided below a brief summary of the current state of play for wineries. Please note that things are rapidly changing and while we will do our best to issue updates, we highly recommend that all licensees sign up for the California ABC email updates, and also keep an eye on orders from their local governments.
GOVERNOR’S DIRECTIVE – Statewide Recommendations
- On Sunday, March 15, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he was directing the closure of “all bars, nightclubs, wineries, brewpubs, and the like.”
- The California ABC has since clarified that the directive is aimed at suspending on-premise retail privileges (that is, the service of alcohol for consumption at the licensed premises). For wineries, the directive applies to their tasting room and event operations in pouring wine and serving customers for on-premise consumption. It has no impact on their production operations, and wineries can continue to have consumers purchase and pick up wine for off-premise consumption, subject to any further local restrictions such as the shelter-in-place orders discussed below.
- After discussing the directive with the Governor’s office, Wine Institute has recommended that wineries take the following steps:
- Ensure visitor and employee safety by intensify cleaning and sanitation procedures;
- Operate the facility in compliance with social distancing guidance (such as instituting procedures to keep individuals 6 feet apart);
- Implement recommendations from the CDC and California Department of Public Health re washing hands, avoiding close interpersonal contact, encouraging employees to remain at home when sick, and instituting additional precautions for older employees and customers.
For other operational recommendations, please see our Employer Guide to Navigating COVID-19 from earlier this week.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT “SHELTER-IN-PLACE” ORDERS – Enforceable Restrictions
- As of March 18, 2020, a number of counties in Northern California (including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma) have issued shelter-in-place orders.
- Wineries that have operations in any jurisdiction that have implemented such an order have legal obligations to alter their current operations to comply with their specific county’s order.
- In its recent guidance, issued prior to the Sonoma County order, Wine Institute concluded that winery businesses meet the definition of “essential businesses” because they constitute “businesses that supply other essential businesses (grocery stores and other food outlets) with the support or supplies necessary to operate.” According to Wine Institute, wineries can engage in the following activities in those Shelter in Place jurisdictions: “vineyard management, wine production operations, bottling, warehousing, sales, delivery and shipping.” However, this “does not include wine tasting and events ….”
- The Sonoma County order includes a provision that more directly addresses winery operations. Specifically, the following activities are deemed “essential” under the Sonoma County Ordinance: “Agriculture, food, and beverage cultivation, processing, and distribution, including but not limited to, farming, ranching, fishing, dairies, creameries, wineries and breweries in order to preserve inventory and production (not for retail business).” It is unclear whether, by excluding “retail business,” Sonoma County is restricting wineries and tasting rooms from engaging in the sale of wine in sealed containers for off-premise consumption, or whether the language is only meant to address retail sales for on-premise consumption.
- Napa County’s order goes into effect at 12:01am on Friday March 20. It includes a provision that deems the following businesses as “essential”: “Any form of cultivation of products for personal consumption or use, including farming, ranching, livestock, and fishing, and associated activities including but not limited to activities or businesses associated with planting, growing, harvesting, processing, cooling, storing, packaging, and transporting such products, or the wholesale or retail sale of such products, provided that, to the extent possible, such businesses comply with Social Distancing Requirements set forth in subsection (j) of this Section 10 and otherwise provide for the health and safety of their employees.”
Please note that this is a rapidly evolving situation, and many more cities and counties may implement Shelter-in-Place measures over the next days and weeks ahead. It is also possible that the ordinances on which this blog post, and Wine Institute’s guidance are based, may be revised.
ADDITIONAL ABC GUIDANCE
- ABC has issued additional guidance regarding the Governor’s directive on steps licensees can take to minimize risk.
- ABC has stated that retail licensees that comply with the Governor’s directive or local government restrictions will not have their licenses suspended.
- ABC offices in shelter in place jurisdictions are closed to the public. ABC Staff will be available to answer questions over the phone, and you can still mail applications to those local offices. Other ABC local office closures will be posted here.
- ABC is not currently accepting, processing, or approving special event or daily licenses in light of guidance on gatherings.
ADDITIONAL WINE INSTITUTE INFORMATION
- Wine Institute has been in direct communication with ABC and has shared the following information:
- ABC will not enforce state regulations that limit the extension of credit to 30 days.
- ABC is looking at additional relaxation of regulations in light of the current situation.
- For more information, go to https://wineinstitute.org/news-alerts/ca-abc-suspends-ca-credit-regulations-enforcement-clarifies-wine-take-out-sales-in-restaurants
- In addition, TTB has informed Wine Institute that “it does not expect any service interruptions but urges all wineries to register and utilize COLAs Online and Permits Online immediately since most of its staff is now teleworking.” For more information, go to https://wineinstitute.org/news-alerts/ttb-relaxes-consignment-sale-restrictions-urges-online-colas-and-permit-submissions
Wine Institute has a helpful resource page dedicated to Coronavirus related updates, which can be accessed here.
If you have any questions regarding alcohol beverage licensing, please contact John Trinidad or Bahaneh Hobel.
For a list of Coronavirus related resources, please see our Resources Page.