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Monday, 6 July 2020

Newsom Orders Wineries and Beaches To Close, But His Winery Gets To Stay Open

Well, this is awkward.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (a Democrat, in case you needed to ask) has closed down the parking lots to some of California’s beaches, according to the Los Angeles Times, one of the Golden State’s famed tourist attractions. California’s wineries, also a prime tourist attraction, have had their tasting rooms closed in some areas.
That’s because 19 California counties were told by the controversial governor that they needed to close certain indoor operations in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases. This included wineries, restaurants, movie theaters and a number of other businesses. 

This was part of California’s Resilience Roadmap, something that sounds as if it were the name of a reopening plan in a cutting, “Dr. Strangelove”-like satire of the government’s response to a fictional, hypothetical pandemic, as opposed to the real name of California’s real response to an actual virus.
It’s curious that wineries and tasting rooms in these counties were closed while the state did not close those in in Napa County. While the coronavirus numbers in that sparsely populated area of California are much better — there were 376 confirmed cases in Napa County as of July 3, according to KGET-TV, and a 1.6 percent positive case rate, according to KMPH-TV. That last number is below the 8 percent rate the governor said was the point that would trigger Sacramento’s intervention. 
However, most travelers going to the wineries for tastings in Napa County’s eponymous valley weren’t likely to come from around there. It’s a popular road trip destination for oenophiles, particularly in the summer. It’s indoors. If you believe keeping wineries open an help spread the coronavirus, and you want to the coronavirus spread, keeping Napa’s wineries open over the July 4 weekend was certainly a good way to do it.
If, however, you really want to take action against the coronavirus spreading, closing the Napa County wineries would certainly make more sense than closing parking lots to state beaches, as California did.
In other news, Gavin Newsom co-founded and owns stock in a company whose holdings include a winery in Napa Valley, accordingto KMPH. In his infinite wisdom, he’s apparently decided not to request it be closed, either in solidarity with other family-owned businesses in the state or because of a conflict of interest.
Conservative actor James Woods drew attention to the business in a Twitter post Thursday.
“Gov. Newsom owns stock in PlumpJack Group, which includes a winery in Napa Valley’s Oakville. That winery is still open for tastings,” KMPH reported. 
“According to Gov. Newsom’s 2018 tax filings, he and his wife own shares in the group that produced a combined salary of nearly $600,000 in 2018. According to PlumpJack Estate Winery’s website, the next available tasting, with certain restrictions, is July 7, 2020.”
The U.K. Daily Mail reported that Newsom’s stock in the PlumpJack Group had been put into a blind trust. He’s still not all that blind when it comes to the fact he owns it, however.
You may think that, as one of the nation’s wealthiest governors, perhaps Newsom just lost track of it; after all, he has a suite of hospitality holdings in addition to his shares in the PlumpJack Group. However, PlumpJack was his first business, together with family friend and investor Gordon Getty, of those Gettys.
After opening a wine store in 1992, the group ended up expanding into the vineyard and currently operates bars, restaurants, caf├ęs and hotels.
And while Newsom isn’t allowed to discuss business considerations with the trustee of his stock in the group, his sister, Hilary Newsom Callan, serves as president of PlumpJack. That arrangement is legal under California law.
It isn’t just James Woods who has an issue with Newsom’s conflict of interest in the matter, either:
Well, apparently.
Correlation is not causality. It doesn’t necessarily follow that since Gavin Newsom decided not to close down Napa Valley’s wineries, he did it because his winery is there — or even that it was a factor. We don’t know how much he earns from the winery itself as opposed to the whole group — or even that he needs that money, at this point.
What’s clear is that this is a curious decision by Newsom to close the tasting rooms of wineries in other parts of the state — and to close the parking lots to state beaches — while keeping Napa Valley’s wineries open during the coronavirus pandemic. At the very least, one could accuse Newsom of regionalism, favoring the economy of the Northern California wine country that he’s steeped in over other parts of the state.
He’s also one of the nation’s wealthiest governors, a man who certainly didn’t need the grief that PlumpJack could cause him in a situation like this, even if his stake is in a blind trust. This isn’t a good look.

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