On-Premise Operations Shuttered Across the Country + More COVID-19 Updates

Dear Client: 

It was a busy weekend as government officials address COVID-19 concerns with the express intent of flattening the curve as quickly as possible, i.e. slowing the spread of the virus. As a result, an increasing number of states are shuttering on-premise operations.

Yesterday afternoon, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all restaurants and bars across the state to be closed to dine-in customers until at least March 30. Carryout and delivery services can continue. This will be effective end-of-business tonight.

Several states followed suit, including Ohio, California, Massachusetts, New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland and Washington D.C. All of which announced the closures of bars and restaurants, while still allowing carryout and delivery. 

Additionally, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency and closed all ski resorts. Pennsylvania will also be closing its state-run Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties starting tomorrow as well as expanding non-essential retail businesses closures, reports a local publication. 

In other communities, grocery stores are also shortening their hours of operation. (Your editor discovered this last night after attempting a trip to H-E-B in Houston after 8pm.)

The Distilled Spirits Council is also “working with states to explore creative solutions for on and off-premise establishments, such as easing regulations in states to permit curbside pick-up and home delivery to adults of legal purchase age,” per a statement from the group. For instance, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will provide a waiver for carry-out alcohol, effective 8pm tonight, per the governor’s office.

Note, those are all the announcements made by press time. We expect more to follow (and soon). 

With the bar/restaurant closures, also comes breweries/brewpubs, wineries and distilleries closing their tasting rooms to the public, including Brown-Forman, Beam Suntory, Heaven Hill, Ste. Michelle and others. Several of which announced closings prior to state mandates.

Though tours and tasting are no longer allowed in California, the Wine Institute noted that “the purchase and pick up of wine and winery business and production operations are not impacted,” per a release. That goes for distilleries and breweries as well – production operations have not been interrupted. 

TTB ALLOWS BEV ALC RETURNS. On Friday, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) announced a bit of relief for the industry by allowing products purchased for cancelled events to be lawfully returned. Indeed, a host of large events including trade conferences, festivals, concerts, sporting events etc. have been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns [see WSD 03-13-2020]. 

Federal consignment sales rules prohibit the sale or purchase of alcohol with the privilege of return. But, “Given the unexpected and widespread nature of the concerns involving COVID-19, TTB will not consider returns of alcohol beverage products purchased to sell during such cancelled events to violate federal consignment sales rules provided the products were not initially purchased or sold with the privilege of return,” per TTB. Though, the agency noted that “even though such returns are lawful, a producer or wholesaler is not required to accept returns of such products.”

ECONOMIC STIMULUS PACKAGE + SLASHED INTEREST RATES. At the federal level, legislators are working on a coronavirus relief package to mitigate economic impacts of the virus. On Saturday morning, the House passed a measure with provisions such as ensuring that workers can take paid sick or family leave, bolster unemployment insurance and guarantee that all Americans can get free diagnostic testing, per The Hill.  

Today, the Senate will take up the bill. Lawmakers expect an “additional legislative package would include broader economic measures such as a tax rebate, a payroll tax cut, small-business grants and loans, expanded unemployment insurance and relief for the airlines and other hard-hit industries,” according to The Hill.

Moreover, last night the Federal Reserve slashed its benchmark interest rate to near zero and said it would buy $700 billion Treasure and mortgage bonds to help mitigate the impact on the economy, per the Associated Press. The Fed will maintain that rate until they are “confident that the economy has weathered recent events.” 

This situation is constantly changing. We’ll have more as it continues to develop. 

MAISON LOUIS ROEDERER ACQUIRES DIAMOND CREEK VINEYARDS

French wine company Maison Louis Roederer has acquired Napa’s Diamond Creek Vineyards. No financial details were disclosed. 

“The acquisition of Diamond Creek is the continuation of our journey into the greatest appellations in the world and our relentless quest to produce great wines with strong identity,” says Louis Roederer chief Frederic Rouzaud. “Reflective of their pioneering characters, Al and Boots Brounstein built Diamond Creek from the ground up, producing some of the most celebrated and singular wines of the region. I am delighted that, once again, we have the opportunity to carry on the opus of an iconic family and embody its values and savoir-faire.” 

Diamond Creek managing partner, and co-founder’s son, Phil Ross, has agreed to stay at the winery for a period of time. The majority of the winery’s other employees will also stay including longtime winemaker Phil Steinschriber. 

You may recall, Louis Roederer also purchased Sonoma-based Merry Edwards winery last year.

Until tomorrow,
Sarah

“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” – Bern Williams     

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