BITTNER: Uncorking a natural wonder – we hope!

Margo Sue Bittner

Dear Governor Cuomo,

The wineries and craft breweries in New York State are trying to do their best to comply with all the various rules and regulations while figuring out how to balance our budgets.

When you closed us down for tastings, but allowed for wine pick-up, curbside delivery and home delivery, many of us jumped on board so we could maintain some sales.

When you said we could resume tastings, but only outside, we analyzed our operations. We set up tents, put tables and chairs outside, and did what we could to help our customers feel comfortable.

Next, we could move our tastings inside. You told us everyone had to be seated for tastings, that we had to allow for social distancing.

So, we put our tables six feet apart, limited the number of chairs at a table. We instructed our customers to not move the tables so that we could fulfill the requirements.

To ensure that we kept the social distancing guidelines, we require reservations. Many of us will not allow buses and limousines to visit. Some have locked their doors and have a sign posted so we let people in at various intervals.

We are constantly cleaning, sanitizing, and checking to be certain we are all meeting the requirements. So that there are no shared implements, we’ve eliminated dump buckets, switched to plastic cups, or sell the glass to the customer for a keepsake.

To allow customers to cleanse their palate, we used to put crackers out on the bar. Now, we purchase the prewrapped crackers and give everyone a packet.

Whatever rules you have imposed, we have done our best to figure out how to follow the new directives.

Now you tell us we have to sell food. We hope you understand that craft beverage locations are different from bars. Yes, we both sell alcohol. But we are selling tastes, a glass here or there. This time of year, maybe a wine slushie. It is completely different atmosphere from a bar. Our goal is to get the people to purchase and take it home to enjoy. Why are painting all alcohol outlets with the same brush? Why are you assuming what happens in New York City happens in Rural Western New York?

Have you visited any wineries? Spoken to the owners, the growers, the winemakers, to see what we are doing and how we operate. We would welcome the opportunity to speak with you.

We are small businesses trying to cope as best we can with a tough situation. Governor Cuomo, please don’t make it harder on us. Help this sector of your agricultural community by lifting this burdensome regulation.

Margo Sue Bittner, a.k.a. Aggie Culture, has been involved in Niagara County agriculture for 40 years. She’s had experience in dairy farming, fruit production and wine agri-tourism. Ask her any question about local agriculture and if she doesn’t know the answer herself, she knows who to get it from.

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