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Business professor develops guidelines for wineries returning to business

Four glasses of various types of wine.

RICHLAND, Wash. –  As communities in Washington state begin to move into the first phase of returning to business, the Washington Wine Institute unveiled a return-to-business guide for wineries across the state created in partnership with a Washington State University Tri-Cities business professor and local industry.

The guide, which is available now online in a document and via a webinar, provides specific recommendations for how wineries can safely return to business according to Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” guidelines.

The return-to-business guide includes recommendations on winery procedures for dine-in service, employee safety and health, cleaning and sanitation, as well as organizational and administrative considerations and personnel illness management guidelines.

“This serves as best practices guidelines and a check list of sorts for reopening a tasting room based on what has been required and recommended by our health departments and the state,” said Byron Marlowe, WSU Tri-Cities Don Smith Distinguished Professor and director of wine and beverage business management. “We want to help wineries feel prepared for this next phase and make sure everyone, business members and consumers alike, are safe while doing so.”

Creating a Safe Start quick-guide for wineries

Closeup of Byron Marlowe
Byron Marlowe

Marlowe initially reached out to Washington Wine Commission leaders in April asking about Washington state-specific resources for wineries trying to re-open as part of what would be identified later as Phase 2 of the governor’s Safe Start plan. He was sent to work with Josh McDonald, executive director of the Washington Wine Institute, per the organization’s work in helping wineries in the political and regulatory areas of state and federal government.

The duo, in partnership with regional and state associations, examined recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Washington State Department of Health, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, the governor’s requirements, as well as a series of other guidance to come up with the document and webinar.

Marlowe said with the numerous guidelines and documentation available, it can be overwhelming for winery owners to familiarize themselves accordingly with all recommendations and requirements for re-opening.

“In this piece, we have a quicker guide so that it is more obvious when something is not in-line with the regulations or recommendations,” he said.

Some of the recommendations in the guide include not permitting bar seating, making hand sanitizer available at entryways for all staff and patrons and posting clear signs that list COVID-19 related concerns.

Guidance on later phases coming soon

The document and webinar so far only address Phase 2 of Gov. Inslee’s “Safe Start” initiative, however, McDonald said they hope to continue their work leading up to communities reaching phases 3 and 4 of Safe Start.

“It has become evident that as rules continue to evolve with each new phase, and will mostly-likely continue to change in our new economic climate, our wineries need a reliable resource to navigate the rules,” McDonald said. “Byron and I have spoken about the potential to collaborate more in the future once we better understand how each phase will impact our wineries. We will absolutely be updating these documents, as needed, to help Washington wineries operate in a safe and compliant manner.”

Advice for shortfalls in sales during unprecedented time

Marlowe said while the document focuses on recommendations and protocols, it does not address best practices for business operations to help address current and potential shortfalls in sales amid COVID-19. Stemming from his background in wine and beverage business management, however, he recommends that wineries continue to offer curbside pick-up, as well as encouraging reservations and the marketing of how customers can make those reservations.

“We know this is a tough time for wineries, and some things that work for large wineries won’t work for our smaller operations,” he said. “But there are things that businesses can be doing now to increase sales. That is precisely why we went about creating this return to business guide. We are trying to find ways for businesses to remain open while following protocols and guidelines as outlined by the state and federal government so that everyone remains safe.”

Additionally, Marlowe designed a hospitality beverage experience guide that provides information on how wineries can systematically identify components of product, price, place and promotion to enhance experiential value for customers during COVID-19.

Media contacts:

  • Byron Marlowe, WSU Tri-Cities Don Smith Distinguished Professor and director of wine and beverage business management, 509-372-7436,
  • Josh McDonald, executive director of the Washington Wine Institute,
  • Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations/communication coordinator, 619-403-3617 (cell),

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