Executive Director Joel Peterson wrote the following to PRWCA members on Wednesday

We wanted to communicate what we know about the eventual reopening of winery tasting rooms. We understand there is confusion about what this looks like. Between the Governor’s comments on Monday and Dr. Penny Borenstein’s comments the same day, we feel it necessary to clarify what we know.

Some of the confusion comes from the fact that San Luis Obispo County has drafted its own phased reopening document – the START Guide, which includes a three-phase approach to opening the County, while at the same time California outlined a four-stage reopening plan and there are variations between the two.

To be clear, the Governor’s announcement that the State will move into “early Stage 2” of reopening does not mean our County will move into Phase 1 of our START Guide. The Governor has not lifted his order and transitioned authority to the County to implement the START Guide. The County is still under the Governor’s order and guidance. However, the county maintains that we are ready to begin reopening, and as soon as the Governor lifts his order and gives local authority back to counties, the START Guide will be implemented starting with a new local Executive Order, and Phase 1 allows for in-person tastings.

On Monday, Governor Newsom announced that starting Friday, May 8, he will revise the State order for some non-essential businesses to begin opening up. For example, allowing retail operations the ability to open for curbside pick-up only, and a few other minor restrictions being loosened, and this would characterize the State moving into Stage 2. Please note that in-person wine tastings are still prohibited under both the State and County “Stay at Home” orders.

Over the past six weeks, we’ve been in close communication with the Wine Institute, and right now they’re building recommended guidelines for tasting rooms as they re-open in a coronavirus reality, focusing on the safety of staff and customers. The Wine Institute has clarified for us that their understanding is: The Governor announced an allowance for “Regional Variation,” which means that “counties can move more quickly through Stage 2, if they attest that they meet the state’s readiness criteria. Counties must create and submit a readiness plan which the state will make publicly available.” Dr. Borenstein stated on Monday that SLO County is working on attesting that our county meets the criteria and is waiting for the template to submit our local readiness plan to the state, which we know as the SLO County START Guide. Essentially, at this point, the County is waiting for the State to alter the “Stay at Home” order and give counties local control. Until the State communicates exactly what will change on Friday, and the County meets and certifies the readiness to loosen restrictions to advance in Phase 2, wineries cannot have in-person tastings.

Based on communication with the County and Wine Institute, it is most likely that winery tasting rooms will be grouped with restaurants allowing for in-person tastings; though, we do expect certain restrictions related to social distancing. In the meantime, we recommend you plan what in-person tastings will look like, making special note of the START Guide Standards and Guidelines for information about signage, physical distancing, hygiene, as well as sanitation of surfaces, room, and hands (beverage industry on page 42 and restaurant operations on page 43 of the START Guide).

I will be in touch with recommended guidelines from the Wine Institute for reopening best practices when we are allowed to do so. Please be in touch with any questions.

Best regards,
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Joel Peterson
Executive Director
Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance

Getting through this together, Paso Robles