Lompoc City Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution opposing a Santa Barbara County wine business improvement district (BID)
at the council’s Oct. 20 meeting.
BIDs, more often implemented in the hotel industry, levy an assessment—in this case, a 1 percent fee for Santa Barbara County wineries on all direct-to-consumer wine sales is proposed—in exchange for benefits such as marketing and promotion.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA BARBARA VINTNERS ASSOCIATION
REJECTED The Santa Barbara Vintners Association’s proposed wine BID is still in the preliminary stages, but Lompoc already knows where it stands: The city council voted to reject the proposal at a recent meeting.
The Santa Barbara Vintners Association is the nonprofit behind the wine BID, and is currently working to get the support it needs to bring it before the Board of Supervisors at the county level
. But, as Lompoc City Attorney Jeff Malawy explained at the meeting, a county BID cannot apply within city limits unless a city council gives its permission.
“What this item is tonight is to preemptively inform the county that the city of Lompoc is not interested in supporting the wine BID, and is not interested in giving its consent to have the wine BID apply within our city limits,” Malawy said as he presented the resolution.
He added that the staff recommendation to pass the resolution opposing the wine BID was “consistent with the request that was made by Kathleen Griffith,” the chief philosopher and proprietor of Flying Goat Cellars in Lompoc, who collected signatures from a number of wineries opposed to the BID.
Malawy said that the Santa Barbara Vintners Association proposes to use the money collected from the assessment in a number of areas to promote the local wine industry, including 8.5 percent for marketing materials, 8.7 percent for a visitor center, 10.2 percent for digital advertising, and 11.4 percent for a marketing agency. The nonprofit also proposes to use 18.6 percent for overhead and reserves, and 27.9 percent for salaries.
But local winemakers who spoke during public comment opposed the wine BID because they say it would place an unfair burden on smaller wineries. Rebecca Work, winemaker at Lompoc-based Ampelos Vineyard and Cellars, said that because the assessment would only be on direct-to-consumer sales, smaller wineries would be giving more than they’re getting.
“It’s the big wineries that are going to gain from it, because their wholesale is very large, and they’re not going to have to pay it,” Work said. “But they’ll be able to get all of the marketing advertisements that we won’t really be able to get the advantage of.”
Work said direct-to-consumer sales account for 70 percent of her business.
Norman Yost, winemaker and proprietor at Flying Goat Cellars, said the wine BID would be especially unfeasible given the impacts of COVID-19.
“This is unacceptable for a small winery such as ours, especially during the economic uncertainty in California due to the pandemic,” Yost said.
After public comment concluded, and with minimal discussion from City Council members, the resolution to reject the wine BID passed 5-0, making Lompoc the first city in Santa Barbara County to officially knock down the proposal. Δ