Napa & Sonoma Wineries and Restaurants form Coalition sue California over forced Closing

The Wine Country Coalition for Safe Reopening, an unincorporated association headquartered in Calistoga, California. Formed in December 2020, its members include over 50 Napa and Sonoma County restaurants, wineries, suppliers, and related businesses that are committed to safe service to their community. These local businesses aim to fight misinformation surrounding outdoor dining, the state prohibitions on outdoor dining built on that misinformation, and the serious harm those prohibitions are causing their employees and the industry. The members are dedicated to protecting their employees' and customers' health and welfare and have collectively and continuously invested millions of dollars to be able to serve their customers safely.

 

Today, January 19, 2021, The Wine Country Coalition for Safe Reopening, (the "Coalition") announced its filing of a lawsuit against Governor Gavin Newsom and California State Public Health Officer Tomás J. Aragón alleging that the state's ban on outdoor dining and wine tasting is arbitrary, irrational, and unfair. The impact of the ban has brought "ravaging" effects not just on local businesses but thousands of workers who have lost their jobs, the Coalition contends. The Coalition comprises more than 50 restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms, and suppliers across Napa and Sonoma Counties and other parts of the Bay Area.

 

According to the complaint, the state regulations enacted in December 2020 arbitrarily and unfairly targeted restaurants, wineries, and tasting rooms by indefinitely and without scientific basis banning outdoor dining and wine tastings in Napa, Sonoma, and elsewhere while allowing indoor businesses like retail to operate with little regulation. 

 

 
Businesses involved in this organization are: Indian Springs Resort, Brannan Cottage Inn and adjoining café Sam's General Store, Tre Posti, Costeaux French Bakery, Amizetta winery, Trancas Steakhouse, AVOW, Quilt & Co., Fumé Bistro, Lovina restaurant, The Calistoga Inn Restaurant and Brewery, Panorama Baking, Filippi's Pizza Grotto, Biagio Artisan Meats, Farmhouse Inn, Vaughn Duffy WinesOlabisi Wines, Pizzeria Tra Vigne, and others.
 
 
"We support the state's efforts to limit the spread of COVID and have collectively invested millions of dollars to operate safely for our customers and employees," said Carl Dene of Sam's General Store and member of the Coalition. "All we ask is to be treated fairly and in accordance with the science. Though the data shows we can operate outdoors safely, our state officials continue to shut us down while trusting big-box retail stores to operate in much riskier indoor settings."
 
The complaint establishes that there is no scientific evidence indicating that when conducted with protective measures, outdoor dining or wine tasting contributes to COVID-19's spread:
 
"When implementing this ban, [Governor Newsom and State Public Health Officer Aragón] apparently did not assess any data particular to outdoor dining or wine tasting.  Had they done so, they would have found no scientific evidence indicating that when conducted with protective measures, it contributes to the spread of COVID at all. To the contrary, a growing body of scientific literature indicates the opposite."
 
According to the Coalition, the outdoor dining and wine tasting ban is causing long-term economic hardship on Coalition members and their employees, plummeting their businesses deeper into debt, causing additional permanent closures throughout their communities, and forcing countless layoffs and furloughs. 
 
"We're projected to have lost more than $3.5 million in gross revenue last year," said Chef Anthony "Nash" Cognetti, Executive Chef and Founder of Tre Posti. "The latest shutdowns have forced us to layoff 95 valuable staff members, and it's devastating to consider what this has meant for them and their families. If we make it through the dining ban, we fear there won't be enough local industry workers left to rebuild our staff."
 
"The shutdown has cost many peers in our local industry their livelihoods," said Cynthia Ariosta of Pizzeria Tra Vigne and member of the Coalition. "Our members have collectively invested millions of dollars to reconfigure their spaces, buy safety equipment, and train staff and customers about new dining protocols, often going above and beyond the state and local guidelines. The Governor must trust the science behind outdoor dining and give our local restaurants and wineries a chance to survive this."
 
The Coalition's complaint, filed in Napa County Superior Court, alleges that the state's outdoor dining and wine tasting ban violates the equal protection, due process, and takings clauses of the California Constitution. The lawsuit asks the court to declare the outdoor dining and wine tasting ban in violation of the California Constitution and stop the ban's enforcement.
 
Our coalition of Napa and Sonoma Valley restaurants and wineries came together because of the misinformation surrounding outdoor dining, the state prohibitions on outdoor dining built on that misinformation, and the serious harm those prohibitions are causing us, our employees, and our industry. 
 
Per the Coalition's website,
We are dedicated to protecting our employees’ and customers’ health and welfare, and we have collectively and continuously invested millions of dollars to be able to serve our customers safely.  We have acted based on the most reliable and current scientific data showing that safe outdoor dining can be achieved. State regulations have arbitrarily and unfairly targeted restaurants while allowing other indoor sectors to remain open for business with little regulation.  We will not stand by as state regulations force our businesses to close, perpetuate financial hardship on our employees, and cause skilled workers to flee Wine Country and California more broadly. We will fight for our employees, our communities, our industry, and our futures. 
 

 

 

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