DP&F to Host 11/1 Town Hall Meeting in Napa on Wildfire Legal Issues

Residents, business owners and community members affected by the Santa Rosa, Napa, Sonoma and Calistoga wildfires are encouraged to attend an Informational Town Hall meeting this coming Wednesday, November 1, 2017 at the Silverado Country Club in Napa. Sponsored by Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty, the meeting is intended to serve as a resource for wildfire victims seeking guidance on any questions they may have as well as serve as an opportunity to discuss upcoming challenges facing our communities.

Topics for discussion will include insurance issues – how and when to make a claim, what to do about your mortgage if your home was destroyed as a result of fire, concerns of erosion and landslides when the rains return to our region, and possible recovery of uninsured losses.

  • When: 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 1, 2017
  • Where: Silverado Country Club, Main Ballroom (1600 Atlas Peak Rd, Napa, CA 94558)
  • Parking: On site

To date, the Wine Country Fires have burned more than 250,000 acres, claimed the lives of 42 people and destroyed more than 5,700 homes, businesses and structures in our communities.

Governor Signs Executive Order Granting Some Relief to Licensees Affected by Fires

Yesterday, the Governor signed an Executive Order that could provide some relief to alcohol beverage licensees whose premises were damaged or destroyed by the recent fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties.

The California ABC Act typically allows alcohol beverage licensees whose premises have been destroyed as a result of fire or other causes to temporarily relocate their business operations for a period up to 6 months to a location within 500 feet of their premises, while their premises is being repaired or rebuilt.

Pursuant to Executive Order B-43-17, the ABC now has the discretion to waive the 500 foot limitation and 180-day time period described above for any businesses that have been forced to relocate as a result of the wildfires. The ABC also have the discretion to waive transfer fees beyond the time limitations set forth in the ABC Act related to such transfers.

Note that because this Executive Order only deals with California licenses, in practice, it will only allow the relocation of premises such as tasting rooms or offices, where a federal permit is not required at the premises. Thus, moving winery production facilities would not be possible under this Executive Order, since such operations would require that the licensee hold a federal winery permit at any facility where production was occurring.

For questions or more information on how to relocate your licensed operations as a result of damage from the fires, please contact Bahaneh Hobel.

TTB and County of Napa Info for Businesses Affected by Wildfires

Our hearts go out to our friends and neighbors who are dealing with damage and destruction caused by the California fires.  Although there are certainly more pressing concerns, we wanted to provide some information that may prove useful in the days and weeks ahead.

TTB Information

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) announced that it will waive late filing, payment, or deposit penalties for those impacted by the California wildfires on a case-by-case basis.  This waiver is available to  taxpayers with businesses located in, or whose records are stored in, areas declared as Major Disaster areas, which includes Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma Counties.  Please go to the TTB website for additional information:  https://www.ttb.gov/announcements/waiver-excise-tax-penalties-businesses-affected-california-wildfires.shtml

Also, in 2015, TTB issued guidance for wineries impacted by wildfires which has helpful information on (1) reporting losses at bonded premises, (2) filing claims for refund or credit of federal excise tax on wine lost in a wildfire; (3) handling untaxpaid wine damaged during a wildfire; and (4) moving wine in bond to another bonded wine facility for temporary storage.  We have been in touch with TTB, and the Bureau may be issuing an updated version of this prior guidance in response to the current wildfires.  We will be sure to let you know if so.

Napa County Agricultural Commissioner Office

For those of you in Napa County that are looking to conduct harvest or other agricultural activities in areas that have been evacuated or wherein access is restricted, please be advised that the County has established a protocol for approving requests for access to engage in such activities.  That protocol can be found through the Ag Commissioner’s website and Facebook page.  The initial protocol was issued on Saturday evening, and revised on Sunday evening, so we encourage you to revisit the Commissioner’s Facebook page for any updates.

Also, the Ag Commissioner’s notice states:  “According to CalFire officials, grapes that have been contacted by flame retardant are not safe for humans and should not be harvested.”  We asked the Ag Commissioner’s office how growers are supposed to determine that their grapes have been in contact with fire retardants.  They responded that the retardants are a very noticeable bright pink / red color, and that it should be evident even after flaking off of the grapes.

Other Resources

Finally, the Napa Valley Vintners, Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers, and the Wine Institute have created pages with some very helpful information for wineries in wildfire affected areas. Those links are below.

If you have any questions regarding the above topics, please contact John Trinidad at [email protected].