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Napa County asks California to lift restrictions on wineries

Napa County, home of more than 130,000 Californians, has a unique request in its application to the governor to reopen: let wineries open sooner rather than later.

While restaurants across the state have been permitted to slowly reopen under certain guidelines to keep coronavirus numbers down, wineries in Napa Valley still remain shuttered, excluded from Gov. Gavin Newsom's Phase 2 of reopening, said Rex Stults, vice president of industry relations for the Napa Valley Vintners, which represents from than 550 wineries.

“The logic makes no sense,” he said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee. “You can have guests come to your winery if you have a full meal service, but you can't just pour a tasting?”

In a letter of support written by county Board of Supervisors Chair Diane Dillion, she said, “We strongly encourage and support the inclusion of Wineries and Tasting Rooms as businesses that the State deems eligible for reopening in Stage 2.”

The wine industry employs more than 40,000 people, Stults said, and is the “economic lifeblood” of the county. Many wineries are teetering on the brink of closure and are worried about the financial security of their employees as the lockdown persists.

“They're worried about keeping their doors open,” he said. “We need the state's final blessing and sign off to help, and we need it soon.”

Napa County is the latest in its bid to join the 28 counties already on track to speedier reopening. In its application, county officials point out the prevalence of COVID-19 in Napa County has remained relatively low, with 94 positive cases, three deaths and more than 4,000 negative tests.

Napa County issued its shelter-at-home order on March 18, a day before Newsom's statewide order, and four days before the county's first positive case.

Stults said it would be “wonderful” to have the Napa Valley's more than 500 wineries reopen by Memorial Day, but he's losing hope.

“We just hope that day is soon,” he said.

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