May 26, 2024

Senate passes Lawson bill to help local wineries

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State House – The Senate today passed a bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Valarie J. Lawson, that would allow wineries to sell up to three five-ounce glasses and three 750-ml bottles per customer per day on site.

Breweries and distilleries in Rhode Island are allowed to sell a limited amount of their product on site. That’s true even though many of their ingredients come from around the world. Wineries, however, are not allowed to sell their product on site unless the fruit was grown in Rhode Island.

“Successful small businesses make for vibrant communities and enrich our beautiful state, and we should be doing everything we can as legislators to support them,” said Senator Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence). “This simple change in our law will mean a lot for these businesses and their communities. Customers should be able to come see the wine being made and share a glass with the winemakers.”

In 2018, winemakers James Davids and Marissa Stashenko left the wine mecca of California in search of a more fulfilling lifestyle. Their journey brought them to Rhode Island where they opened Anchor and Hope, a winery in Rumford, to partner with family farms to produce small batches of artisan wine.

“We instantly fell in love with Rhode Island and the quality of life here,” Stashenko said. “We started our business and are really excited to share our craft with our new community.”

Some of the grapes used at Anchor and Hope are grown in Rhode Island, but some are from out of state. As a result, the winemakers cannot sell their product onsite. Senator Lawson’s bill (2024 S-2127) would change that.

The bill now heads to the House where House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket) is sponsoring similar legislation (2024 H-7720).

“As the craft beverage industry grew, we modified the law to keep up, allowing breweries and distilleries to have tasting rooms and sell their product onsite,” said Representative Kazarian. “It’s time bring the law up to speed for our small, local winemakers.”

To Davids and Stashenko, the legislation would be a great way to grow their business and become more integrated in the East Providence community. “We’re grateful to Senator Lawson and Representative Kazarian for sponsoring this legislation, which would enable us to hire more people and grow our business,” Stashenko said. “We’re just asking to be treated the same as the breweries and distilleries. How great would it be for our community if our neighbors could have a glass of wine with friends right here at their local winery?”

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