A recent article (“Why Yountville’s Redd Restaurant closed,” Oct. 8) described the shocking closing of numerous notable restaurants in Napa County’s cities.
Three main reasons were cited for these closures:
-- Workers can’t afford to live in Napa and commuting times are too long;
-- The bidding war for talent – corporate wineries and resorts have no financial limit;
-- Wineries in the Ag Preserve are serving meals.
“Everyone is dealing with staffing issues—it’s unsustainable,” said Reddington owner of Redd. One might say this is a battle for survival. But there is more at stake here than just restaurants.
We are talking about commercial activities in our beloved Ag Preserve. Our early leaders foresaw these battles and provided a series of regulations: The theme of the General Plan and the Rural Urban Limits describe a vision where housing and commerce take place in the cites while agriculture is focused on county lands.
The county is turning a blind eye to the proliferation of restaurants in the Ag Preserve even though in 2010 they clarified the Winery Definition Ordinance: “Tours and tastings may include food and wine pairings, where all such food service is provided without charge except to the extent of cost recovery and is incidental to the tasting of wine. Food service may not involve menu options and meal service such that the winery functions as a café or restaurant.”
“Redd’s closing says a lot about the changing dynamics of dining in the valley,” said Chris Blanchard, Redd’s first wine director. “Restaurants have to compete with so many wineries that are now offering food pairings and lunches, with in-house chefs creating menus to keep their visitors engaged. Tourists aren’t necessarily interested in a big dinner or fancy lunch when they can have a food experience at the winery. It’s really tough on restaurants now.”
And now another article (Diane De Filipi, Oct. 16) notes that “Wineries and visitors are now able to benefit from an ambiguity in the [WDO] ordinance that allows for educational wine and food pairings for visitors. This little loophole is making it possible for us to enjoy meals at wineries…”
She goes on to describe a five-course meal with vegan and vegetarian options. Creating a restaurant-class kitchen and hiring a top chef and support staff is no small endeavor. Neither is staying within the parameters of the loophole.”
So there you go; there are restaurants in the Ag Preserve.
Why has our county allowed restaurants to proliferate in the Ag Preserve at the expense of legitimate restaurants in our cities? Whatever the reason, it must stop. Our laws must be obeyed along with the very important, fundamental issue of preserving our county land for agriculture, not commercial, enterprises.
Napa Vision 2050