AUSTIN, Texas — Relaxing sounds of nature drift throughout wineries in Texas but the last thing some winemakers are doing is keeping calm.
"I worry all across the board at all wineries employees are going to be let go," said Ab Astris Winery co-founder Kristen Nelson.
Nelson said the last time Gov. Greg Abbott shutdown tasting rooms they lost 90% of their business during that period because that's where they make most of their profit.
Now she is worried about the trickle-down effect of having to close a second time.
"This is a critical time because it is right before harvest," said Nelson. "In Texas, a lot of the wineries purchase fruit from growers up in the high plains, and if we don't have money coming ... a lot of us aren't going to have money to buy that fruit that we need."
The closure of tasting rooms and bars came after the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspended the licenses of multiple bars around the state including four in Austin for not social distancing.
Nelson said their family's winery shouldn't have to close because they are sitting on 110 acres, which is great for social distancing. She added tasting rooms are a different environment than bars and should be treated as so.
"We provide an education to our patron because they're learning about art, they are seeing the fruits of our labor and it's not a party," said Nelson. "It's not a place to come after hours to get drunk."
She isn't alone.
Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller sent a letter to the governor asking him to remove wineries and wine tasting rooms from the definition of bars and allow them to reopen immediately.
Over at The Austin Winery, their building sits on land a lot smaller than 110 acres. The Austin Winery Founder Ross McLauchlan said closing tasting rooms should be a case-by-case decision.
"I really do think there's a case-by-case compliance and situations that should be looked at," explained McLauchlan. "For me, I would like to be able to operate but, again, I think it's a little soon right now and I think just generally shutting everything down was the right."
The Wine industry in Texas brings in millions of dollars to the Texas economy.
"The Texas wine industry is a significant industry for the state of Texas. Bringing in an economic impact to the state of about $13 billion, and we have about 500 wineries located across the state of Texas," Adriana Cruz, the executive director of the Economic Development and Tourism Division in Gov. Abbott's office, said. "The Texas Hill Country wineries right now are ranked number two in the country in terms of a wine tourist destination, so that’s something that’s really important for those Texas Hill Country communities and the wineries that they support."
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