After hours of confusion, Orlando reverses course on alcohol sales at restaurants

For Orlando’s food and beverage community, today has been perhaps the most tumultuous roller coaster ride yet on the dystopian fantasy fairground that is the COVID-19 crisis.

Just after 10am, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer sent the community into a panic when he issued an executive order banning all sales of alcoholic beverages for onsite consumption in the city until further notice.

A few hours later, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued his own executive order banning sales of alcoholic drinks for 30 days at all “bars, pubs, and nightclubs,” defined as businesses that derive more than half their gross revenue from alcoholic drink sales.

Under the state order, restaurants are subject to a number of new rules to ensure social distancing, but they can still sell alcohol to drink onsite.

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Orlando wine businesses get creative in the face of new COVID-19 restrictions

UPDATED Tuesday March 17 4:30pm

Today was the day the other shoe dropped for Orlando’s wine and beverage community.

This morning, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer banned the “sale or distribution” of alcohol for onsite consumption, effective immediately. Soon afterwards, Governor Ron DeSantis ordered bars and nightclubs across the state to close for 30 days, starting at 5pm tonight.

Retail alcohol sales are still allowed, though, and local wine businesses are quickly adapting to the new rules, as well as to new expectations for social distancing.

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Despite a few cancellations, it’s business as usual for most Orlando wine establishments

Tim’s Wine Market Orlando is suspending its wine seminar series until further notice because of concerns over COVID-19. An email to customers – headlined by the photo below- said patrons with prepaid reservations will get refunds or store credit. The store’s informal weekend samplings, however, will continue as usual.

Credit: Tim's Wine Market Orlando
Tim’s Wine Market in Orlando is suspending its wine seminar series because of COVID-19. (Credit: Tim’s Wine Market)

As we reported on Thursday, the Orlando Magic has postponed its blockbuster Orlando Wine Festival and Auction that was scheduled for this weekend.

Apart from that, most Orlando-area wine establishments appear to be operating as normal.

“We’ve been really busy lately,” said Digress Wine owner Rob Chase, “so I’m going to keep rolling with it!”

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Orlando Magic’s Wine Festival Adds Wineries, Finalizes List

A few days before the end of ticket sales for the top two packages for the Magic’s second annual Orlando Wine Festival and Auction, the Magic added more than two dozen wineries to its list.

There are now more than 40 producers involved, and it’s a more geographically diverse group. Some of the new additions hail from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Provence, and Argentina.

The festival’s website provides a sampling of the participating wineries.

Today is the last day to purchase the two highest level packages, at $9,250 and $6,500. The lowest level package, priced at $2,500, is available until March 5.

Orlando Magic’s Napa-Focused Wine Festival Gains Some Wineries, Loses Others for Year Two

UPDATE: Additional wineries have since been added to the festival’s confirmed list.

The Orlando Magic is gearing up for the second iteration of its Orlando Wine Festival and Auction next month. Last year’s inaugural event raised $900,000 for the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation.

The list of participating wineries* is smaller this year, with 18 confirmed producers, compared to 26 at this time last year. Two big names are new to the festival – Tuscany’s Antinori and Australia’s Penfolds – while venerable Napa producers Heitz, Dunn, and Lail have not confirmed a return visit.

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Orlando’s Wine Community Urges Action Against Proposed Wine Tariffs

Photo: Digress Wine co-owner Brian Kerney speaks to customers at a 2018 Champagne tasting

The U.S. government is about to decide whether to impose 100% tariffs on European wine. It’s just the latest in a string of proposed wine tariffs, and the issue has cast a pall over Orlando’s wine community. The U.S. Trade Representative is accepting comment on the levy through this coming Monday, January 13, and Central Florida wine professionals are taking to social media to urge their friends and customers to speak out.

“My family and I obviously have a lot at stake here, given the multi-faceted and potentially catastrophic effects a 100% tariff would have on the wine industry,” wrote Brian Kerney, co-owner of College Park’s Digress Wine, in a Facebook post last week.

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