Coronavirus

California to loosen COVID guidelines on breweries and distilleries

The state of California says starting this Saturday, breweries and distilleries that do not serve food, may re-open outdoors in the purple and red tiers.

But the state did not issue any changes for the vast majority of bars in the state’s purple and red tiers. Unless they serve food, they cannot reopen outdoors until the orange tier.

That’s frustrating for some bar who owners who feel left out when businesses such as wineries are allowed to operate outdoors even when they don’t serve food.

Workers at Adobe Road Winery in downtown Petaluma say they’ve been able to offer outdoor services since last June.

Live music on Thursdays draws a good turnout. Its outdoor wine tasting room was built to keep the business open during the pandemic.

“This is our old tasting room. We had seats in here. People can stand at the bar,” says Tony who works at the winery’s tasting room.

He says business is only at about half of what it was before COVID restrictions.

Patrons say enjoying a glass of wine with friends is essential during these difficult times.

“Seeing people, how happy they are. It’s very important,” says Debbie Koehlerschmidt, a patron. 

The winery does not serve food. Patrons can bring their own.   

“At least we get to operate this way. Otherwise we’d be out of business,” says Stauffer. 

Nearby, bars are closed, including Buckhorn Tavern.

“Hello. COVID has forced us to be closed but we will get to your phone call as soon as we can,” says the recorded message on the tavern’s answering machine.

In San Francisco, Micah Byrnes, the co-owner of Monarch, a self- described craft cocktail bar and music venue in the South of Market says his business has been closed since last March. 

“I think it’s unfair. Nightlife, music venues in particular are being demonized, unfairly shuttered,” says Byrnes. 

He questions why establishments such as wineries and restaurants can be open and serve alcohol but bars such as his are kept closed.

“A lot of this is political and optics for a city government to say clubs are bad or nightlife venues or music venues and bars are bad,” says Byrnes.  

But some say there is a difference between patron behavior at a winery versus a bar.

“We don’t stay open late. People don’t come here and party get inebriated like they might at a bar. It’s not a social gathering place. It’s a place for people to come and taste wine,” says Stauffer. 

A group of ladies tasting wine say bars should be allowed to reopen with or without food when other establishments serving alcohol can operate. 

“I don’t see any difference. We’re having alcohol either way. Just socializing,” says Teray McBride. 

She and her friends say they would patronize bars when they reopen.

They say it’s unfair that certain businesses can open while others are forced to remain close.

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