Public Art League to Hold Wine Tasting

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) – Impacted heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic, wineries and vineyards across Illinois hope to start their recovery process as warmer weather returns and restrictions ease up. 

Like other hospitality industry members, Wineries and vineyards were greatly impacted by the ongoing pandemic. 

Small and mid-sized wineries and vineyards have faced a steep decline in their events business, with weddings, reunions, corporate retreats, and other large events put on hold for much of the last year. 

Many relied on the Paycheck Protection Program and disaster loans to survive. While these programs helped provide an essential lifeline, they still face financial pressure related to property taxes, payroll, workers’ compensation, and state alcohol excise taxes.

“Illinois wineries and vineyards are not only important economic drivers in their communities, they are key to the state’s overall tourism industry,” said Lisa Ellis, Executive Director of the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Alliance. “Between skyrocketing operation costs and limited revenue streams, COVID-19 has resulted in many of these businesses struggling to survive. It’s a critical time for the hospitality industry, and we will need the continued support of state officials to recover fully.”

According to the Illinois Grape Growers & Vintners Alliance, Illinois’ wine industry employed 36,403 people and generated $2.98 billion in economic activity in 2019.

“We were lucky to receive support from the community, including many who took advantage of our ability to safely serve customers outdoors. However, our events and weddings business took a significant hit, and our overall revenue was down more than 50 percent compared to normal years, while the costs that go into running a business remained,” said Diane Hahn, owner of Mackinaw Valley Vineyard.

Hahn continued “We look forward to welcoming people back to our various events and helping local nonprofits with their fundraising efforts to help them recover lost financial ground. Our communities are stronger when we work together, and as the state prepares for further reopening, we encourage everyone to support local businesses. Local matters, now more than ever.” 

The impact of the pandemic on Illinois’ hospitality industry includes:

  • Loss in on-premise wine and alcohol sales, with volume sales down more than 46.8 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. This change has resulted in extensive job and economic losses for neighborhood businesses.
  • Reductions in sales at winery tasting rooms. Though direct-to-consumer shipments have increased during the pandemic, it has not come close to compensating for the loss of wine sales by restaurants and bars.
  • Drops in sales to restaurants, bars and taverns, with 30 percent of establishments not placing new wine and beer orders since the pandemic began.

“The wine industry has found a way to adapt during this past year, and we are looking forward to welcoming customers back to our winery,” said Caroline Schrader, Winemaker at City Winery. “That said, we will need continued support from elected officials to ensure the industry’s survival, which goes well beyond the sales generated to the workers we employ and the betterment of the communities we serve.”

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