The topic on everyone’s mind here in Washington, DC and elsewhere is the Covid-19 novel coronavirus. Last week seemed to be the tipping point as schools have shuttered, events have been cancelled, and the business impacts have become more widespread. To that end, WineAmerica has postponed the National Wine Policy Conference, due to be held in early June.
Just like any hospitality industry, the wine industry is dependent on the public. We rely on tasting room visits and events for revenue. Wineries and local associations of course need to be mindful of public safety first, but the stark reality is that the industry will face some economic hardships. Just recently California called for the closure of tasting rooms and other non-essential businesses such as restaurants and brewpubs.
For wineries in California, this applies to all tasting room and event functions. It does not apply to direct-to-consumer shipping and other direct purchases from a winery. It also does not prevent any other winery work from happening, such as bottling wine, etc. In California these new guidelines are not a mandatory order (as of now) but it seems that most wineries are deciding to shut down for tastings. Now many counties in Northern California have ordered their citizens to shelter in place and only leave their houses for essential needs such as groceries. Sonoma County has allowed for winery operations to continue due to an agricultural exemption.
Other states have issued mandatory shutdowns of restaurants and bars, such as Washington, Michigan and Oregon. In those states restaurants will still be allowed take-out and delivery service, but no dine-in options. In New York the governor has ordered that restaurants and bars shut down. In Ohio, where many wineries have restaurants, sales are not limited to pick up and delivery. This may be the case with many other states, and we encourage you to make sure you watch for local updates.
Things have been moving extraordinarily fast and seem to change by the hour. We are sharing some tips about what you should be doing during this crisis.We thought a good example of what a winery could and should be doing was summed up well by one Virginia winery. Below is their original update from Friday. To illustrate how quickly things have been changing we will follow it with their update from earlier today.
Friday: “We have decided to cancel our Oyster Fest this weekend as a precautionary measure. While we have no knowledge of COVID-19 exposure and Central Virginia is not a hot spot, a gathering of almost 500 guests traveling from throughout the region creates an unnecessary risk. Our Tasting Room will operate under our usual hours at this point (11 am – 5 pm) and we will keep our website updated with any adjustments.
For the past two weeks, we have also increased sanitation measures in our tasting room, event spaces, and offices, especially by continuously disinfecting high touch areas such as our i-pads, door handles, and other areas. We are transitioning to single use paper menus, installing additional disinfecting stations in the tasting room, and significantly limiting the number of guests in the tasting room so we can appropriately space tables. Our glassware and dishware is washed with high temperature disinfection and our staff are all trained in the recommendations from the WHO. We have initiated additional sick day benefits to ensure that our staff stays home when they are sick or if they need to quarantine in the future.“
Today: Thank you to everyone for your patience and understanding as we are grappling with the best way to keep our team, members, and guests safe in this changing world. We will be closed today, Monday March 16th, in order to sanitize from the weekend and determine the best next steps for the weeks ahead.
Our greatest joy is to share our wines, food, and hospitality with you and we can’t wait to do so again soon!
Many wineries have decided to close to the public and offer online and phone sales only. This is obviously a business-by-business decision. We encourage you to update your social media feeds often to let your customers know what your business is doing. If you are remaining open to the public. WineAmerica recommends that you follow these guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
Clean your hands often
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Stay home if you’re sick
- Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.
Cover coughs and sneezes
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Wear a facemask if you are sick
- If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room.
- If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.
Clean and disinfect
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.