Movie theaters with restaurant-style food service will reach a broader audience with the recent signing into law of a bill passed by the Washington State Legislature allowing service of food and alcoholic beverages to their patrons. The law as currently written allows some service of alcohol in movie theaters, but requires exclusion of minors from the premises. The new law will create a new, more family friendly, beer, wine and spirits license for theaters. The license will allow minors if certain conditions are met and approved by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, such as submission of an alcohol control plan outlining the methods to prevent minors from obtaining alcohol, similar to plans that are required for clubs and show venues that host all‑ages concerts. Theaters will also be required to meet food and service requirements, similar to restaurants, to qualify for the license. (Senate Bill 5607 as Passed by Legislature)
When the new license goes into effect this summer, not only will it provide an opportunity for luxury theaters to expand their market in the competitive entertainment industry—as more families and groups combine dinner with watching first release films—but it has the potential to create new outlets for Washington’s craft breweries, wineries and distilleries that are likely to promote their products and services to venues that offer up-scale in-theater dining options.
Stoel Rives, LLP had the pleasure of working with our client iPic Entertainment to craft and support passage of this new class of Washington State liquor license.
In a recent 3-0 decision, a California Appeals Court sided with Freemark Abbey Winery in its attempt to move its wine store and tasting room into a building in St. Helena which already contained a restaurant. The decision reversed the district courts granting of a preliminary injunction which would have stopped Freemark’s move entirely until a trial.
The building is owned by Freemark and the move was challenged by Silverado Brewing Co., the current operator of the existing restaurant. The challenge stems from Silverado’s lease, which gives it exclusive rights to run a restaurant in the building. Silverado claimed that moving Freemark’s tasting room into the same building would violate that exclusivity.
The court based its decision on the word “purvey” which, it stated, in this context simply meant selling. Any other reading, said the court, would lead to “absurd results.” The decision remanded the case back to district court with an order to vacate the broad preliminary injunction the district court had previously granted and an order to institute a new narrow injunction which would “prohibit[s] Freemark Abbey from selling food or beverages for consumption on the premises in any portion of the building” pending trial.
A copy of the court decision can be seen here.
On March 8 and 9, Stoel Rives cosponsored, with Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, the 6th Annual Best Practices for Owning and Operating a Winery, held in Napa, CA. The well attended event covered such topics as valuation, water, energy, and branding. Stoel attorney’s Chris Hermann, John McKinsey, and Jake Storms were all panel speakers with John McKinsey acting as emcee for the second day of the conference.
On December 5, 2011, the TTB published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice No. 125) regarding the establishment of the Inwood Valley Viticultural Area in Shasta, California. If established, the new AVA would consist of a 28,000 acre area, the vast majority of which is currently not dedicated to, or known for, vineyards. The TTB invites comments on the proposed rulemaking, with any comments due on or before February 3, 2012. A full version of the Notice and the documents relating to the underlying Petition can be found here.
On Wednesday November 16, the TTB published a ruling (T.D. TTB-97, available here) amending the federal definition of the Russian River Valley viticultural area and the Northern Sonoma viticultural area, by expanding each. The action first began in August of 2008 when Gallo Family Vineyards submitted a petition for the amendment. After receiving numerous comments both for and against, the TTB ruled to expand the Russian River Valley viticultural area south and southeast by 14,044 acres to 169,029 acres, an increase of 9%. This expansion will include land just west of Rohnert Park and Cotati.
The decision will also expand the Northern Sonoma viticultural area to include the entirety of the Russian River Valley viticultural area. The expansion will add 44,244 acres to the Northern Sonoma area, bringing its total to 394,088 acres, also an increase of 9%.
The TTB specifically noted in the ruling that the expansion will not affect currently approved wine labels but will allow winemakers in the expanded area to utilize the two viticultural designations not previously available to them.
The ruling goes into effect on December 16, 2011.
The IRS recently issued a new Audit Technique Guide (“ATG”, available here) applicable to winery and vineyard operations. As with previous IRS guidance, the new ATG is meant to be used by IRS examiners; however the IRS anticipates the industry will rely upon the publication as a guide. It should be noted, the ATG should not be cited as the IRS's technical position.
Many of the issues in the new publication have been previously covered in prior IRS guidance. In this ATG, however, the IRS appears to streamline many of its positions. For example, the UNICAP rules, to which wineries are subject, have evolved since the 1995 guidance. While previously cited as only temporary, these rules have since been finalized, and additional UNICAP rules have been added.
While the streamlining in the new guidance is mainly procedural, the ATG does reflect some significant developments. One such change is the IRS's acknowledgement that vineyards may qualify for Section 179 deductions. Currently, Section 179 allows a $500,000 deduction to taxpayers who place over $2 million of property in service by the end of 2011. For 2012, Section 179 reduces those numbers to a $125,000 deduction for placing over $500,000 of property in service during that year. The deduction will be further reduced to $25,000 for tax years beyond 2012. The ATG states that, based on changes to the definition of property subject to the Section 179 deduction, "[c]ertain practitioners are taking the position that this new definition includes vineyards and are taking [the Section] 179 deduction."
In addition, the ATG addresses and essentially blesses an income deferral method rejected in a 1996 case. The ATG describes the case as involving an accounting structure in which a farmer, using cash method accounting and operating a vineyard as a division of a winery, would sell grapes to the winery without receiving payment until the wine was sold, up to two or three years later. As a result of using cash method accounting, the vineyard would defer income until such time as the wine was sold. The ATG states that in 1997, the IRS published treasury regulations allowing this accounting practice.
To learn more about the issues discussed above as well as other developments addressed in the ATG, please contact:
Carl Lewis at email@example.com
Nikki Dobay at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jake Storms at email@example.com
This post was created in conjunction with Nikki Dobay.
On April 15th, a California Superior Court Judge denied a challenge to San Diego County’s new Winery Ordinance. The Ordinance, passed in 2010 and available here, eases restrictions on tasting rooms and sales for smaller producers and allows others to essentially “fast-track” registration as a “small winery” with such designation allowing for pre-approved events, such as weddings.
The challengers claimed that the Ordinance’s Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) was inadequate. Judge Timothy Taylor disagreed, stating “[t]he Board of Supervisors was, by the EIR, adequately informed about the consequences of its decisions. The public (including petitioner) was provided with adequate information regarding the decisions of their elected leaders.”
The challengers have 30 days from the issuance of the ruling to appeal.
This past week, Stoel Rives partners Chris Hermann and John McKinsey and associate Jake Storms all participated as panel speakers at the Best Practices for Owning and Operating a Winery conference, held at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa, CA. John also acted as co-host of the conference, which covered a wide variety of topics affecting wineries and vineyards, from siting and permitting and valuation to how to build a brand and protect trademarks.
Chris, Chair of Stoel’s Winery and Vineyard Management group, spoke on custom crush agreements and the pitfalls that can affect those who do not adequately protect themselves. John, California Co-Chair of Stoel’s Winery and Vineyard Management group, educated attendees on energy use and utilizing renewable electricity sources. Jake, an associate in the group, spoke on industry trends and California-specific legislative and project actions, including AB 605 and the California High-speed Rail.
The event was well attended, with over 40 stakeholders present at the two-day event. This marks the fifth year of the event, which was sponsored by Stoel Rives and Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, along with industry mainstay, Wines & Vines.
On March 9th, the Napa County Farm Bureau held its first water forum in five or six years in St. Helena, California. Kicked off by Bureau President Jim Lincoln, the event was well attended, with over 100 concerned stakeholders listening to the most recent updates in California water issues.
Phillip Miller, the Deputy Director of Napa County Public Works, discussed a recent study by Napa County designed to compile countywide data, establish a framework for reporting, and provide recommendations related to any future groundwater permitting and monitoring program.
Of most interest was the presentation by Paula Whealen, a principal at the engineering firm of Wagner & Bonsignore. Ms. Whealen gave a general overview of new requirements for surface water users from the California State Water Resources Control Board (“SWRCB”), including:
· All reports of licensees and progress reports by permittees and pre-1914 water right diverters are now due annually by July 1;
· Reports must provide the monthly amount taken from the source;
· They must state the monthly amount beneficially used; and
· They must be filed electronically as of this year.
o Filings will require high-speed internet access
Because all new reports must be filed electronically, the prior “fudge factor” regarding timelines for reporting will no longer exist. The SWRCB will be able to tell on July 2 who hasn’t filed the necessary reports. Failure to file all necessary reports constitutes non-compliance with the underlying water license/permit and can lead to fines and/or other administrative actions. It was also stated that, given the increase in the number of enforcement officers (25) and the establishment of a water rights enforcement office in Santa Rosa, California, there will be a significant increase in site inspections in the North Coast region.
A bit of sage advice given at the Forum is for all vineyard and winery owners operating under a license/permit to take it out, read it, and understand it. If you don’t understand your water rights permit, find someone who does, and most importantly, make sure you are in compliance. In addition, even for those sources that are not required to be reported (i.e., reclaimed water), it behooves vineyards and wineries to keep records of all water that is used on the property.
While wineries and vineyards have long been moving toward being “green,” several have taken the next step by installing renewable energy generation onsite. One of the most recent is August Cellars, just outside Newberg, Oregon. The winery recently installed a 150-foot-tall, 50-kilowatt wind turbine. August Cellars maneuvered around the somewhat prohibitive cost of the project (between $70,000 and $100,000) by not actually owning the turbine, but instead leases the turbine from a third party with an option to buy.
August Cellars is following in the footsteps of such giants as Constellation Wines, which, in September 2010, announced it would increase its solar photovoltaic (PV) usage to nearly 4MW with new installations at its Estancia, Ravenswood, and Clos du Bois wineries in California. These systems would expand on the company’s already existing use of solar PV at its Gonzales winery. Constellation will own the systems and take advantage of the tax credits. Once completed, the installations will cover nearly 100% of the energy needs of Estancia and Ravenswood, 75% of Clos du Bois, and 60% of Gonzales and is projected to save the wine giant nearly $1 million annually from reduced energy costs.
The move by wineries toward renewables is not merely a “West Coast thing” either. Red Caboose Winery, a 10,000-case rural winery located in Meridian, Texas, recently released a statement that it would be using a USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant of $15,617 to help install a solar PV system. According to the owners, the new system will allow the winery to have a net annual energy consumption of zero.
If structured properly, installation of renewables can make economic sense for a winery/vineyard, creating significant financial savings from reduced energy costs. In addition, for a wine business, there is substantial public relations value to going “green.” When combined with other energy efficiencies, installing renewables can substantially reduce a winery/vineyard’s carbon footprint. This can, in turn, generate substantial brand goodwill from a public that is becoming increasingly aware of environmental consequences. This is especially true among the wine-drinking demographic.
Wineries and vineyards looking to install renewable energy often encounter a host of obstacles. Two of the largest are variability and cost.
Simply put, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. Nor does power always cost the same or do governmental entities offer the same incentives. A winery or vineyard contemplating installation of a wind turbine or solar array should look closely at the available resource. This may mean paying for ancillary costs, such as scientific studies. It will assuredly mean a closer look at long-term planning to establish acceptable rates of return given the attendant risk and variability.
In 2009 and the first part of 2010, installation of a commercial solar PV system in the United States with a capacity of 250-500kWDC averaged around $7.10 per installed watt before incentives and tax credits (click here for a more in-depth look). That price can drop to $4.00 per watt or lower after incentives and tax credits, with some larger projects (>2MW) seeing prices as little as $2.50 per watt. While this cost is projected to decline further, it still creates a significant initial capital outlay that may require many years to recoup. It therefore becomes important to view renewable installation in the long term.
With this in mind, wineries and vineyards have several ways of making the use of renewables cost-effective and attractive. These include using tax credits and grants, third-party ownership as in the August Cellars example, and taking advantage of such programs as Net Metering or Feed In Tariffs, where such programs are available.
- Net Metering – This uses a special metering system that credits you for the excess power you generate. Net Metering allows a winery to avoid the full retail cost of electricity and pay only for its “net” use in each billing or truing up period.
- Feed In Tariff (FIT) – A Feed In Tariff allows smaller renewable generators to sell their generation at set rates back to the utility. FIT contracts can be very restrictive and often run from five to 20 years. They also have modest, yet very predictable, rates of return. However, installations being used under a FIT program are generally not eligible for other programs, such as Net Metering.
While the obstacles can be daunting, installing renewable energy at your winery or vineyard can have substantial economic and marketing benefits. An owner contemplating installing a renewable energy system would best be served by having a good understanding of the local resources and looking into all avenues of funding. With proper planning, renewable energy can make your “reds” and “whites” feel green.
On Tuesday, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance creating a plan designed to protect both vineyard frost protection measures and endangered species in the Russian River. After nearly a year of negotiations, the Board added Section 11B to the County Code, creating a registration program for grapegrowers and plan to assess water use practices for frost protection by utilizing over 100 gauges placed throughout the watershed. Information on usage will be presented to the Board on a yearly basis and will be used to potentially mitigate effects of diversions on a real-time basis.
The move to create a program started when Federal officials informed the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) that overuse of water from the Russian River and its tributary, Felta Creek, for frost protection was negatively impacting endangered Coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead smelt. Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated that continued overuse and endangerment could result in a ‘take’ under Section 9(a)(1) of the Federal Endangered Species Act, subjecting those responsible to fines and penalties.
The adopted program will be supervised by Sonoma County and includes a scientific review panel. The ordinance provides that the gauges will be overseen by an entity comprised of members of the grapegrowing community. The State Board had rejected an earlier proposal by grapegrowers to voluntarily adopt preventative measures, demanding there be some method to “…kick out bad actors.” On October 27, 2010, the State Board published a Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Public Scoping Meeting for their own proposed regulations applicable to the grapegrowers diverting from the Russian River watershed. The State’s plan would cover water diverted for frost protection from the Russian River in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties and hydraulically connected groundwater.
Section 11B creates a mandatory registration program for all Sonoma county grapegrowers. Growers will be required to register with the County Agricultural Commissioner starting in mid-January, 2011 and running through March 1, 2011. Failure to comply could subject violators to fines ranging from $500-$1,000. The Board of Supervisors will vote on a fee schedule for the program in January.