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The license question is resolved

When Woody Creek Cellars proprietor Kevin Doyle and restaurant owners Casey and Lori Christianson decided to set up a wine tasting room in Glenwood Springs, they benefited from a state law encouraging such endeavors.It just took a little more bureaucratic red tape than they had counted on.After city officials raised questions last week, state regulators reaffirmed Doyle’s legal entitlements under the law, allowing him and the Christiansons to go forward with their plan for the Christiansons’ Maple Table Bakery & Cafe downtown.It turns out the rules applying to small Colorado wineries’ tastings are a fair amount less stringent than those applying to liquor store tastings.”Limited wineries have privileges that a lot of other (liquor) licensees don’t,” said Laura Harris, licensing director for the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Liquor Enforcement Division.That reflects, in part, a desire by the state legislature to promote its small winery industry. Harris believes lawmakers’ efforts are working, with about 65 wineries operating in the state now.”There are very few wineries that have gone out of business. So what they have intended has in fact happened,” she said.If the state has proven friendly to wineries’ desires to hold tastings, Doyle and the Christiansons feel Glenwood Springs has not. They were frustrated when the city’s Alcohol Beverage Board delayed action last week on their wine tasting plan. They felt the city was overstepping its authority.”It’s going to work itself out in time because we’re right,” Casey Christianson predicted after the board’s meeting.Indeed, by week’s end city clerk Robin Unsworth said Doyle was free to proceed with his wine tastings at the Christiansons’ establishment. She believes Doyle and the Christiansons had overreacted, and said the city was simply seeking clarification over the wine tasting law.Before the issue was resolved, Christianson had been concerned that the tastings might have had to wait a month, until the next city liquor license board meeting.”The city, they tend to drag their feet on things a little too long and it tends to hurt small businesses like ours. … The time that we’re not selling is the time that we’re not making money, too,” he said.Unsworth said she was able to get her questions answered later last week when she spoke with state liquor enforcement officials during an event for municipal clerks. Said Harris, “I think the local authority was just a little confused over their jurisdictional obligations. … We answered some questions and put their minds at rest about what their obligations were and that generally took care of it.”Local governments have no direct authority over tastings by wineries, but can only make recommendations to the state regarding issues such as conformance with the zoning code.Harris said Doyle obtained a tasting room permit from the state in August.She said local jurisdictions sometimes get confused, mistakenly thinking winery staffs must undergo seller training for tastings, as liquor stores must do.The liquor store tasting law is much newer than the one applying to wineries, Harris said. She said the newer law was enacted despite considerable political opposition, and she noted that liquor stores can do beer and spirits tastings as well. Besides its server training requirement, the liquor tasting law also limits things such as serving sizes, the amount any customer can be served and hours of operation.Unsworth said the city understood all along its lack of authority over wineries’ tastings, and never raised concerns over training requirements. But she said there are only two other licenses in Glenwood like what has been issued at the Maple Table – one at the Chocolate Moose downtown, and a temporary one held by Woody Creek Cellars for the Downtown Market – so the city hasn’t had a lot of experience with them.She said it “sent up kind of a red flag” for her when Christianson spoke of serving full glasses of wine to go along with meals in the tasting room. That started to sound like something that would fall under the city’s hotel/restaurant or beer and wine license requirements, so she turned to the state for guidance.Its licensing questions now resolved, the Maple Table is planning to offer, a couple of times a month, five- to seven-course “slow food” meals featuring locally originated foods, paired with wine from Woody Creek Cellars.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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