Texas Wineries Want Gov. Abbott to Exempt Them From Rule That Shut Down Bars

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Even after pleas from independent Texas wineries, Gov. Greg Abbott has remained silent on whether he's open to rewriting mandates that ban onsite alcohol consumption at wineries, tasting rooms and breweries.

For weeks, the state's wineries have been advocating for him to rethink those guidelines, saying their facilities and tasting rooms don't present the same risks as bars, which came under scrutiny for lack of social-distancing space and guests' overconsumption of alcohol.



“The silence speaks volumes,” Jennifer Beckmann, director of operations for Slate Mill Wine Collective, told the Current. “We have 80 acres of outdoor space. We completely groomed the land surrounding the facility and offer two patio spaces with 13 seating areas — all of which are more than eight feet apart. We have taken the time, effort and financial investment to [reopen] correctly."

Slate Mill Wine Collective, situated south of Fredericksburg, is a full-service boutique winery with an incubator mentality. While Slate Mill produces its own line of wines, it also invites other Texas winemakers to offer their vintages in a single shared tasting room.



Beckmann asks why wineries and tasting rooms with ample space and adequate safety guidelines should be held to the same rules as bars and restaurants under Abbott's mandate.

“Just by sheer virtue of space and land, we’re in a completely different scenario,” she said. “Before [the second wave of shutdowns], we were doing everything that we possibly could to keep our staff and guests safe, but not being able to serve wine by the glass or by the tasting is, obviously, a huge financial hindrance.”

Not only are Texas wineries faced with the prospects of longterm financial damage from COVID-19, their prolonged closures would also hurt the state's economy, Beckmann added. The Texas wine industry contributes $13.1 billion annually to the state's economy. 

Beckmann says the financial damage isn't just about consumers being unable to spend at wineries' tasting rooms. It includes a trickledown effect that hits producers, distributors, manufacturers and retail outlets.

Currently, Slate Mill is open for curbside and pick up services — the only way it's able to generate revenue under Abbott’s mandate.

“Our grounds are so tranquil. We have an optimal way to allow people de-stress in a very stressful environment,” Beckmann said. “We’re doing everything we can to be creative, but we’re kind of maxed out in the creativity department at this point.”

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