Vineyards hope warmer weather will bring recovery from pandemic

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois wineries and vineyards are hoping for a strong recovery after more than a year of widespread disruption caused by the pandemic.

Wineries and vineyards have faced significant drops in income as costs skyrocket as they seek to comply with complex health and safety regulations, including investing in protective gear individual, sanitation services, and fulfillment and delivery operations.

Small and mid-sized wineries and vineyards have also faced a sharp decline in event activity, with weddings, meetings, corporate retreats and other large events hanging for much of the year. last year. Many relied on the paycheck protection program and disaster loans to survive.

“Illinois wineries and vineyards are not only important economic engines in their communities, they are essential to the state’s overall tourism industry,” said Lisa Ellis, executive director of Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Alliance.

“Between skyrocketing operating costs and limited revenue streams, COVID-19 has driven many of these businesses to struggle to survive,” she said. “This is a critical time for the hospitality industry, and we will need the continued support of state officials to fully recover.”

The Illinois wine industry employed 36,403 people and generated $ 2.98 billion in economic activity in 2019, according to an economic impact study conducted by the Illinois Grape Growers & Vintners Alliance. To begin to recover and return to pre-pandemic activity levels, Illinois wineries and vineyard operators say they will need the continued support of their communities.

“We have been fortunate to have the support of the community, many of whom have benefited from our ability to serve customers safely outside,” said Diane Hahn, owner of Mackinaw Valley Vineyard in Tazewell County. “However, our events and weddings business has been seriously affected and our overall revenue has declined by over 50% from normal years, while the costs of running a business have remained. .

“We look forward to welcoming people back to our various events and assisting local nonprofits in their fundraising efforts to help them reclaim lost financial ground,” she said. . “Our communities are stronger when we work together, and as the state prepares for a new reopening, we encourage everyone to support local businesses. Local affairs, now more than ever.

The impact of the pandemic on the Illinois hospitality industry includes:

• Loss of wine and alcohol sales on site, with volume sales down more than 46.8% in 2020 compared to 2019. This change resulted in significant job and economic losses for businesses neighborhood.

• Reductions in sales in tasting cellars. Although direct-to-consumer shipments increased during the pandemic, they did not come close to making up for lost wine sales by restaurants and bars.

• Decrease in sales in restaurants, bars and taverns, with 30% of establishments not having placed new orders for wine and beer since the start of the pandemic.

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