California craft beer brewers sue Governor Gavin Newsom over COVID-19 pandemic shutdown orders

SAN FRANCISCO -- California craft breweries are suing Gov. Gavin Newsom, alleging COVID-19 public health orders unjustly target small, craft beer makers operating across the state of California.

The California Craft Brewers Association and breweries statewide filed the lawsuit Thursday against the governor and California State Public Health Officer Sandra Shewry.

The suit alleges that state officials have unfairly denied beer manufacturers their equal protection rights by requiring them to serve a meal to operate a tasting room when others in the alcohol beverage manufacturing industry don't have to do so.

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They also claim the state's 4,000 winemakers and winery tasting rooms have more generous reopening privileges than the state's 1,050 craft breweries.

Craft breweries are required to provide a sit-down meal in order to reopen their outdoor tasting areas, but the same requirement is not imposed on wine manufacturers.

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There are many questions coming in regarding the City of San Francisco's rules on outdoor dining. A complaint has been filed after restaurant patrons were seen eating in a parklet outside of Original Joe's in North Beach.



Craft brewers say the split guidance creates an arbitrary and unjust distinction between wine manufacturers and beer manufactures.

"When it is time to begin the reopening of businesses in 2021, we need to ensure that a single industry is not arbitrarily divided based on unfounded assumptions," said CCBA executive director, Tom McCormick in a statement. "We want to ensure that the craft brewing industry has the same privileges and the same pathway as other alcohol beverage manufacturers to reopen, re-employ and re-build next year."

The suit alleges that wineries and breweries have identical manufacturing facilities that operate with the same "risk factors" as identified by the California Department of Public Health.

They say the sole difference between wineries and breweries is the product they produce: wine or beer.

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"Both winery and brewery businesses are indistinguishable in their processes and privileges and should be assigned the same guidelines for reopening by the state," the statement says.

Right now neither breweries nor wineries can open in the Bay Area or other parts of California amid current lockdown orders.

A spokesperson for the governor was not immediately available for comment Saturday.

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