BELTRAM, Texas - From shutdown to back open to shutdown once again, wine tasting rooms are fighting again to reopen in Texas.
Winery and vineyards are pushing to reopen their tasting rooms after they, along with bars, were shut down for a second time last month by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Right now if you go to a winery and vineyard, all you can do is buy a bottle of wine and that’s it. You can no longer taste wine in the tasting room.
“Now we are back to where we were 3 weeks ago and maybe a little worse,” said Gail Fowler, co-owner of KFire Winery & Vineyard.
Fowler said a big part of their business comes from people tasting the wine before they buy it. “The way we introduce people to our wines is by tasting our wines,” said Fowler.
Without tasting the wine, Fowler said people can be hesitant to buy an entire bottle and the lack of a tasting room, in general, can keep potential customers away. “A lot of our sales are from tasting groups, they come in, they taste and they buy,” said Fowler.
The order to shut down tasting rooms is part of the governor’s recent executive order which closed bars across the state in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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“We’re not bars, we don’t consider ourselves bars, we understand where the rules come in but if somebody would come in and see what we do at the winery and impact and manufacturing,” said Fowler.
Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is even weighing in on the issue and backing winery and vineyards in the push to reopen tasting rooms. “We’re glad that somebody is defending us that knows what we are going through and knows the winery business and institutions,” said Fowler.
Miller wrote to Abbott:
“A wine tasting room is not a bar. There’s not the same concern about large crowds of people getting drunk and forgetting about precautions against COVID-19 that you’d find in a bar. I’ve asked Governor Abbott to recognize this difference and give our Texas grape growers this chance to survive in this pandemic.”
According to Miller, 95 percent of sales for a winery comes from tasting rooms.
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