[caption id="attachment_28758" align="alignleft" width="216" caption="Katherine Philippakis, Carrie Peters"][/caption]
A number of wineries recently have contacted the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC, on their participation in charity events orchestrated by third-party advertising services.
The ABC's recent scrutiny of these events suggests that it is taking very seriously the matter of winery compliance with the regulations governing winery participation at charitable events.
Specifically, wineries are allowed to pour wine at charitable events only if they comply with the provisions of Rule 53, Title 4 of the California Code of Regulations.
The first important aspect of this regulation is that it applies only to "winegrowers," or those who hold a Type 02 license from the ABC. So, it does not allow wholesalers (also often called "virtual wineries" because they have wine custom produced for them by another winery) to participate in charity wine tastings.
Conditions for Rule 53
Those who are licensed as California winegrowers may conduct wine tastings that are sponsored by a bona fide charitable, fraternal, political, religious, trade, service or similar private organization if certain conditions are met.
Here are relevant conditions:
-- The sponsoring organization must be a nonprofit organization.
-- Attendance must be limited to members of the sponsoring organization and their invited guests (i.e., not open to the public).
-- No charge or donation shall be made either for the wine served or for admission to the premises. This prohibition applies only to participating wineries. The charity may charge admission, accept donations and charge for wine served.
-- Wineries cannot advertise or publicly announce the event as a tasting. The charitable organization may advertise the event.
-- Sales and solicitation of sales are prohibited. That includes placing order forms around the premises. However, a winery may distribute brochures describing the wines and listing their prices, but these cannot be forms for ordering.
-- No wine may be given as a gift or prize to be taken home.
-- Wine can be offered for tasting on unlicensed premises.
-- The tasting also may be held on premises with an on-sale retail license, such as a restaurant. However, the tasting must be held in a room or some other area completely separated from where alcoholic beverages are sold.
For example, a charity tasting could be held in a private banquet room of a restaurant. Alternately, the restaurant could be closed for the event so no alcoholic beverages would be sold during the tasting.
-- If the tasting is held on licensed premises, the retail licensee (i.e., the restaurant) must surrender its license for the day in question. At the same time, the charity must obtain a one-day permit from the ABC, licensing the organization to host the event.
A common problem with Rule 53
One of the ways wineries often run afoul of Rule 53 is failing to verify that the charitable organization has indeed pulled a one-day permit from the ABC.