Under the current county winery ordinance, a Tier One winery is defined as producing 20,000 cases or less and is limited to four special events per year of more than 80 but fewer than 150 attendees.
In 2012 we had five special events at our vineyard. The first was a charitable fundraiser for the Service Dog Association. The second was for the Turduckens, which raised $18,000 for the Lompoc, Vandenberg Village and Buellton libraries. The third was our annual barrel tasting brunch for our top 250 customers. The fourth was for the Santa Ines Mission and had about 200 attendees. The last one was in December to raise funds for the Lompoc Hospital to purchase breast cancer detection equipment and had around 300 folks.
By now you astute readers are wondering how we had one more event than allowed and almost double the 150 attendees permitted? The reason is, our winery is in the city of Lompoc and only our vineyard is in the county, and thus our events were permissible. The next question is, why does the county discriminate against wineries and not treat them the same as vineyards, cattle ranches or horse farms?
Skipping over that question, the more important question is, why does the county or its citizens want to prohibit wineries from holding charity fundraisers or force the winery to choose between a special event for its customers or a charity fundraiser? What societal good is achieved by the winery ordinance depriving the Lompoc Hospital or local libraries of desperately needed funds?
I have asked a lot of questions and there is a simple answer to all of them. In the Lompoc and Santa Ynez Valley, 52,000 citizens — that is 65 percent of those valley residents — live in the cities of Lompoc, Buellton and Solvang. The city councils of those cities voted 11-3 for a resolution asking the Board of Supervisors not to count as a winery event or special event a fundraiser sponsored by and primarily for the benefit of a nonprofit organization.
This common-sense resolution recognizes that it is to all our benefit to encourage fundraisers for nonprofit organizations and whether the venue is a winery or vineyard or hotel room should not make a difference, so long as there is no impact on neighboring properties, and the existing regulations regarding traffic, parking, noise, dust and light are followed.