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Caymus Vineyards sues California governor over shut tasting rooms

Caymus Vineyards has said it is filing a lawsuit against California’s governor, alleging that Napa Valley wineries have suffered ‘unfair treatment’ in the state's plan to relax coronavirus lockdown rules.

Caymus Vineyards said that governor Gavin Newsom and California’s state health department had discriminated against Napa Valley wineries in the phased relaxation of the coronavirus lockdown.

It is unfair that wineries serving sit-down meals in other parts of the state, as well as restaurants in Napa Valley itself, have been allowed to reopen for visitors ahead of tasting rooms, said Caymus.

It said it was filing a lawsuit against Newsom and state public health officer Sonia Angell in the district court for the northern district of California.

‘If it’s safe for restaurants and other wineries to serve meals, it’s undeniably safe for wineries to open for tastings,’ said Chuck Wagner, founder and president of Caymus Vineyards.

While public health and safety is a primary concern, wineries in Napa Valley, Sonoma and beyond have been hit hard by lost tasting room revenue and sales in the Covid-19 crisis.

‘Our lawsuit makes a simple demand – that we be treated fairly and equally,’ said Wagner. ‘We take public health laws seriously, and we’re not asking for special treatment.’

The California governor’s office could not be immediately reached for comment, but a California government spokesperson said, ‘We do not comment on pending litigation’.

As reported in a separate article by Decanter today (29 May), many California wineries have been racing to prepare a host of new hygiene measures and tasting formats to be able to reopen for visitors, as soon as state authorities allow them to.

Technically, wineries offering sit-down, outdoor meals can now open to visitors. Some Sonoma County producers have begun to do so.

Caymus said of its lawsuit, ‘The complaint alleges this [rule] makes no sense, and specifically harms Napa County wineries because county law prohibits wineries from offering full-meal service in the first place.’

However, Caymus said that Napa County officials had supported wineries’ push to reopen during the current ‘phase 2’ stage of California’s lockdown relaxation. County officials have also permitted producers to create more outdoor tasting space.

California had 101,697 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 3,973 deaths as of 28 May, according to the state health department. Officials have launched a new contact tracing programme designed to alert members of the public if they may be at risk, as well as highlight any localised spikes.

See also: 

California wineries prepare for visitors and a new normal

Oregon tasting rooms reopen, but Napa stays shut

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