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Jobs blow for wineries as blanket ban imposed

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South Australian wineries are fully reliant on online sales and wholesale distribution after the state’s cellar doors and restaurants were forced to completely close to the public from last night, with the industry flagging more job losses as a result.

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The closure of all winery premises to the public – even for takeaway sales – from midnight last night follows a cluster of COVID-19 cases linked to the Barossa Valley and Coonawarra.

A spokesperson for the South Australian Police said under the Emergency Management Act 2004 the State Coordinator had restricted the public from entering the premises of “wineries with cellar doors and restaurants attached to them”.

“Wineries are major tourist attractions and as a holiday period approaches, travel to wine regions is discouraged in order to protect these areas from a potential influx of tourists and spread of COVID-19,” the spokesperson said.

“Wineries that sell food commercially to supermarkets and retail stores are still permitted to produce and sell products, but food products must be transported to retail outlets by commercial freight or the winery itself.”

The new measures follow an order on March 24 stopping cellar doors from providing tastings – but allowed take away food orders.

A sign at the entrance to Penfolds Magill Estate detailing the restaurant and cellar door closure. Picture: Tony Lewis/InDaily

InDaily reported yesterday that Sidewood Estate in the Adelaide Hills had begun offering takeaway food from its restaurant, which opened in January.

This morning Sidewood Estate owner Owen Inglis said he had to let go of four chefs as a result of the new measures, which allowed cafes to continue selling wine but not restaurants associated with cellar doors.

“Our winery is not at our physical winery, it’s not at our vineyard, so I cannot see how that differs to a restaurant or coffee shop. There is absolutely no difference,” he said.

“I laid off 34 casuals from the first closure of the restaurant and there’s no business for the bottling line because wineries aren’t putting money into getting it bottled at the moment. So we laid off more casuals and we had to stand down four permanent (staff) this morning.”

He said he didn’t believe the restaurant was entitled to the Federal Government’s $1500 “JobKeeper” stimulus package.

“Obviously this ‘stop and go’ approach is quite damaging … we only opened at the beginning of the year, so can’t show the 30 per cent drop month by month,” he said.

“To me, it would be a knee-jerk reaction to the spread of COVID-19 in the Barossa Valley. Obviously that has not occurred in any other region.

“There’s been a quick knee-jerk reaction without a consideration for what they’re doing.”

South Australian Wine Industry Association chief executive Brian Smedley said there was disquiet about the “blanket application” of the measures.

He said it would not stop wineries from producing wines but would make them more reliant on online sales.

“We can understand the reasoning about why this has been undertaken,” Smedley said.

“There has been some disquiet in terms of its application as a blanket application across the state – and we recognise what that’s about – but we also understand the need to make sure these types of premises are not open if people do continue to travel over Easter.

“It’s really about trying to create a situation where people can’t congregate… but it does have an impact on our industry and it is a cause of concern for businesses who are trying to do the right thing by keeping a business open and also keeping employment.”

Picture: Tony Lewis/InDaily.

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