Oregon Senate Bill 841 brings finality to the ongoing debate about the appropriate intensity of agri-tourism and other commercial events held at wineries on agricultural land.

Looking forward, wineries permitted under ORS 215.452 are allowed to engage in activities that are directly related to the sale and marketing of wine without local review. These types of activities include wine tastings, wine club activities, winery and vineyard tours, meetings or business activities with wine industry members or vendors, open houses, and similar activities (which appears to be a catch-all allowing for some flexibility). The legislation confronts the debate about on-site kitchens at wineries, making clear that kitchens are allowed under specified conditions.

A winery may also hold up to 18 days per year of agri-tourism or other commercial events, which include outdoor concerts; educational, cultural, health or lifestyle events; facility rentals; celebratory gatherings; and other events at which the promotion of wine in conjunction with the winery is the "secondary purpose of the event." Not all wineries are treated the same, however, under the new legislation. As part of the compromise between the interested parties, wineries in the Willamette Valley must go through a newly created administrative review process with the counties before engaging in these types of events. This process is intended to confirm through the issuance of a multi-year license that the proposed events are "subordinate to the production and sale of wine and do not create a significant adverse impact to uses on surrounding lands." In anticipation of challenges, the bill expressly exempts licenses for six events or less from review by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) but allows LUBA challenges of licenses authorizing seven to 18 events.

SB 841 has less of an impact on larger wineries authorized under ORS 215.453. It clarifies what marketing activities are allowed, but does not eliminate a large winery’s ability to operate a restaurant and still requires that the winery seek a permit from the county if it intends to operate the restaurant more than 25 days per year. Similar to the restaurant requirements, large wineries under SB 841 must seek a permit if hosting more than 35 agri-tourism or other commercial events per year.

Overall, the legislation does not significantly change the permitting or operations of wineries. It attempts to strike a balance between the age-old policy of protecting Oregon’s agricultural lands and promoting the economic vitality of Oregon’s wine industry. Also, it attempts to be fair and leave room for some flexibility moving forward in that it contains a grandfather clause for previously authorized events and allows a winery to seek a conditional use permit if the winery does not qualify under, or wishes to carry out uses or activities not authorized by, ORS 215.452 or 215.453.