FILE - Texas winery

A sign advertising AB Astris Winery located along Highway 290 Texas Wine Trail in Stonewall, Texas.

(The Center Square) – Wineries across Texas have been looking for ways to recover from the COVID-19 economic fallout and recently formed the Texas Winery PAC (political action committee) to jointly advocate for industry support amid the pandemic.

Government-mandated closures of bars also extend to wineries, causing many tasting rooms to shut down for good, while others are trying to meet new guidelines from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), which allow certain businesses to operate as restaurants if alcohol constitutes less than 51 percent of their total sales.

“A lot of wineries have had to invest in kitchen equipment and provide food, that’s the only way they can be open; they are kind of jumping through hoops,” Leigh Dempsey, co-owner of Reserve Tours in Fredericksburg, which relies heavily on private custom wine tours in Texas Hill country, told The Center Square.

Tasting rooms are a major source of revenue and marketing opportunity for wineries, and without them, sales are down 70 percent to 80 percent at many wineries. Closures also have affected the rest of the supply chain and related businesses from farmers to tour companies.

Texas wineries have a direct and indirect economic impact of $15 billion in the state, including more than $1 billion in state and local taxes, according to the PAC’s website.

Officially launched July 24, the PAC is working to make people aware of the state of the winery business and to support candidates and elected officials who share their goals for reopening tasting rooms and overall industry recovery.

“One of the biggest reasons visitors have come to Fredericksburg these days is because of the wineries,” Dempsey said. “Wineries and tasting rooms not being open for normal operations is having a significant impact on overall tourism.”

“All of these poor businesses are struggling,” Dempsey added. “We need businesses to be open and stay open and that way we could restimulate our economy.”