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California wineries and restaurants told to shut indoor spaces

California's governor has told all wineries and restaurants across to shut indoor spaces after a spike in coronavirus cases in the state, but outdoor tastings are still happening in several areas, including Napa Valley.

Governor Gavin Newsom said this week that wineries and restaurants across California can no longer allow visitors and diners inside.

Bars must close completely, he said, amid concerns about a rise in Covid-19 cases across the state.

California had been pursuing a phased relaxation of lockdown restrictions, but the move is the latest sign of how a path to recovery from an initial wave of Covid-19 cases may not be straightforward.

In Napa Valley, wineries and restaurants have only been serving visitors outdoors since 9 July, following concerns about a localised spike in cases.

Tourism body Visit Napa Valley said said hotels and retail shops were still operating and that wineries and restaurants were still open for outdoor service. Reservations must be made in advance for wine tastings.

‘Most wineries had already expanded their outdoor tasting areas prior to the indoor shut down,’ said Teresa Wall, of Napa Valley Vintners. She said new measures were therefore a ‘hiccup but not a major hurdle’ for most wineries, adding that all were following ‘the highest standard of safety protocols’.

While many wineries have said the health and safety of communities, staff and guests are the primary concern of all involved, there has been a degree of frustration, too.

Michael Honig, president and CEO of family-owned Honig Vineyard and Winery, told Decanter.com that the situation was very hard for businesses that rely strongly on direct-to-consumer sales, like wineries.

He also said recent spikes in Covid cases in Napa Valley were not linked to wineries or restaurants. ‘I think the governor is trying his best,’ he said, but he added that some restrictions were ‘really impacting the economy and not solving the problem’.

Honig has not been too badly affected by the indoor ban because tastings have been taking place outdoors at the winery, which reopened at about 50% capacity from 12 June.

‘We are seeing very few guests flying in from other parts of the US, but a lot of folks that live within two hours of the Napa Valley,’ said Honig, who added that many visitors were pleased to escape the house and spend a bit extra.

‘Everyone is supported, the staff have masks on and the guests have been enjoying themselves – they’re tired of being at home and they’re excited to be here,’ Honig said.

California’s health authorities said that wineries and restaurants had been targeted by new restrictions, alongside other venues, because they are places where people are more likely to mix with other households.

Officials said that there had been 7,040 deaths from Covid-19 across the state as of 13 July.

See also: 

Napa Valley wineries start to reopen for visitors

California wineries prepare for visitors and a new normal

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