Caymus Vineyards sues Gov. Newsom over shutdown of tasting rooms that don't serve meals

In the lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Caymus says the rules are arbitrary and nonsensical.|

Gov. Gavin Newsom has allowed customers to resume dining in restaurants in much of California. But his gradual reopening of the economy during the coronavirus pandemic excludes tasting rooms at wineries that don't serve sit-down meals.

Now a Rutherford winery is suing Newsom, saying the state's rules are unfair because wineries in Napa County generally aren't allowed to serve sit-down meals.

The lawsuit, in a sense, pits neighbor vs. neighbor.

Caymus Vineyards' tasting room is a six-minute drive through Napa Valley to Plumpjack Winery, which Newsom co-founded in 1995 with financier and political backer Gordon Getty.

“Knowing that ... I'm surprised that he left us out in the dark,” Caymus founder Chuck Wagner said in an interview.

In the lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Caymus says the rules are arbitrary and nonsensical. The state “cannot offer a good reason for failing to trust wineries to follow health guidelines in their indoor and outdoor tasting areas, even while they trust toy stores, restaurants and florists to do the same,” the lawsuit says. Wagner said 20 percent of Caymus' sales are made at the tasting room.

Plumpjack is closed, too.

A directive issued May 12 by the state says brewpubs, bars and wineries can't reopen “unless they are offering sit-down, dine-in meals.” That's given wineries in several counties, including El Dorado and Sonoma, clearance to reopen.

According to the lawsuit, Napa County's wineries with limited exceptions are prohibited from offering offer food service.

The lawsuit notes that Napa wineries have been gearing up for reopening with “provisions regarding sanitation requirements, social distancing and occupancy guidelines, employee wellness screenings, and protocols specific to tasting rooms.”

Wagner said, “We would comply with all the state and county standards. We would go beyond that .... We need a chance to become whole.”

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