The Idaho Wine Commission is reducing staff expenses by moving to a four-day work week as of Aug. 24.
“Local and state restrictions have limited our ability to execute our signature events, resulting in a potential loss of 28% of our revenue this year,” Executive Director Moya Dolsby said in a letter to the industry.
About 32% of commission revenue comes from events and activities, 60% from excise tax and 8% from industry assessments.
The four staffers will work remotely Mondays through Thursdays, which “allows us to be more fiscally responsible as we plan the remainder of the year,” the letter said.
The commission remains committed to “building brand awareness, developing educational resources for winemakers and growers, and pursuing effective legislation to ease the path to market.” It has a Specialty Crop Block Grant for education and promotion.
IWC collects participation fees for multi-winery events that benefit the industry. It canceled Savor Idaho, a summer outdoor event that generates substantial ticket revenue.
Idaho has 62 wineries. Tasting rooms were closed, except for outside pick-up, through the first half of May.
Ada County venues are subject to an Aug. 11 Central District Health Department order prohibiting public and private events of more than 50, and private social gatherings of more than 10 where 6-foot personal distancing is not maintained.
Three operators in Ada County’s Garden City feel the event pinch.
IWC Chairman Earl Sullivan of Telaya Wine Co. said the order has a big impact as people cancel events into 2021.
“We have pivoted to try to make changes to make up for it, but traffic is sporadic depending on the reporting of cases, the changes of protocols or the general anxiety of the public,” he said.
Telaya reconfigured its indoor space and expanded its patio, brought in food trucks to encourage people to pick up dinner and wine, offered free shipping on orders over $100 and began hosting small events.
“You might see some wineries decide to close shop if the restrictions continue into the spring,” Sullivan said. “Going into winter and not being able to use our outdoor space will cut our capacity by 50%.”
Crystal Potter of Potter Wines said sales from outside events such as festivals, farmers markets and community gatherings are down about 25% from a year ago. Staff have participated in farmers markets in Garden City, Eagle and Caldwell as the opportunity has not been available in Boise.
Increased bottle and case sales have mostly made up for lower by-the-glass sales, she said. Releasing a line of canned wines provided a boost.
“The spring was super tough on us as far as revenue was concerned,” said Joe Schnerr of Cinder Wines. “We were down about 20% overall, with nearly all of our restaurant sales gone. We normally host a few large corporate events and/or concerts each month as well. That revenue disappeared.”
Cinder canceled larger March events to debut its newest wines. It plans much smaller events for the fall debuts, and is seeing success with small wine club gatherings.
“These smaller, more intimate events might be one of those ‘silver linings’ that come out of the pandemic,” Schnerr said. “We’ve already decided that we won’t be going back to the larger party formats we’ve done in the past.”