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Wine alliance updates guidance for wineries during pandemic 


– Following California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new restrictions on wineries, bars, and restaurants amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance updated its guidance to local wineries on Sunday. The new statement says:

On Sunday afternoon, Gov. Newsom asked for “closure of bars, wineries, breweries, and pubs, and called for restaurants to reduce their occupancy by half”. The announcement, designed to limit places open to the public, called for “deep social distancing” and a “pragmatic response to the moment”.

Although these changes are urged rather than required, in his press conference Gov. Newsom said that if they were not followed he would make them mandatory. The best we can do for our membership, as responsible members of the community, is to inform you of the Governor’s statement and ask you to follow this directive by closing your tasting rooms to the public. This is part of what we are doing as an integral part of this community to help head off what could be a terrible outbreak locally.

The Wine Institute sent communication after the speech noting the closure recommendation applies only to winery tasting activities and events. The purchase and pick up of wine and winery business and production operations are not impacted. We will await further details that clarify the Governor’s closure announcement and what it means for our local wineries. I can assure you we will be in touch daily with more details as we get them. We understand the gravity of this situation and how it will greatly affect your business and our local wine economy.

The PRWCA Board of Directors is meeting on Monday and we will be discussing this situation. We will be in touch with news from the City of Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County, and the State as we get it. Thank you for your patience and support as we deal with this very fluid situation.

Let’s continue to support each other and work together to make Paso Robles Wine Country a safe environment.

Joel Peterson
Executive Director
Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance

The original report, March 15, 2020:

Wine alliance issues ‘Best Practices for Winery Tasting Rooms’ during pandemic

–As people continue to visit Paso Robles for a wine country experience through the COVID-19 pandemic, the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance on Friday proposed some best practices for local wine tasting rooms to help guests feel welcome and safe.

First and foremost, guidelines set forth by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California Department of Public Health, and the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department should be consulted frequently as updates are constant, the wine alliance said in guidance to members. The wine alliance offered the following suggestions for wine tasting rooms to consider:

Make social distancing a priority in the tasting room

  • Consider going to appointment-only to limit the number of people in your tasting room.
  • Make tables or individual spaces available where small groups/parties can separate themselves from other groups.
  • The CDC recommendations are to keep six to 10 feet away from other people.
  • Avoid family style presentations of food and switch to individual, plated options.
  • Provide individual spit cups versus the communal spittoon.
  • Postponing events – even small ones – to later in the year when we all have more clarity on the extent of the crisis and the appropriate actions to take.

Clean environments help reduce the spread of illness

  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly. For customer-facing items like tables, doorknobs, countertops, toilets, faucets, and sinks, you should be doing this hourly.
  • Encourage employees and guests to wash their hands often – at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water. Signage within your restrooms will help remind healthy behavior.
  • Be obvious with your efforts, wipe down a tasting table just before your guests are seated.
  • Provide sanitizing liquid dispenser stations.
  • Create signage that reminds people to cough/sneeze into a tissue or the inside of their elbows and wash/disinfect their hands after.
  • If employees are sick, push them to stay home. A cough or a sneeze in public currently has a more powerful message beyond a simple involuntary action.

Communication is important

  • Reach out to members of your mailing list to let them know the changes you’re making, invite their questions, and reassure them that you are aware of the crisis and taking steps to operate responsibly.
  • Invite visitation. You are still open for business and that you are taking responsible precautions to ensure that your guests can still have a wine country experience.
  • Tell guests to avoid visiting if they, or a loved one at home, are sick. Consider the demographics.
  • If they cannot visit, incentivize orders. Remove/reduce shipping costs or make wine club only wines available to the general public. While supplies last…
  • Ensure that those handling online purchases are following the same best practices when handling materials and wines being shipped.
  • Reduce barriers to purchase. Free or reduced costs to tasting and/or fewer minimum bottle purchase. Do what’s smart to encourage purchase without compromising your brand.
  • Encourage guests to call and email you so you can personally reassure them. Get back to them right away. This is a relationship-based business and maintaining those relationships is important once this pandemic is under control.
  • Messaging and tone are key. These are unique and sensitive times; crisis management best practices suggest that you be sober and reassuring and not make light of the crisis or people who are worried.

The World Health Organization has deemed this as a global pandemic. The California Department of Public Health has recommended that large non-essential gatherings that include 250 people or more be postponed or canceled through the end of March. “We will continue to monitor these recommendations and encourage you to do so as well as this situation is fluid with new updates,” the wine alliance said. “Meanwhile, we strongly suggest you err on the side of caution, as one poorly executed event that produces a nexus of infection could do massive and lasting damage to our community and industry.”

“Let’s continue to work together to make Paso Robles Wine Country a safe place where visitors can still have a safe and memorable experience,” the wine alliance said.

If your local business is making changes to accommodate customers during this time, the Paso Robles Daily News and A-Town Daily News want to hear about it. See this related article, “How are you adjusting during this time to accommodate your customers?

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About the author: News Staff

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