Vandalism at Parsell and COVID

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

Our thing is transparency: in our farming, in our wine, in how we talk about what we do and why. But behind the scenes, we're been dealing with some COVID challenges like so many people, and we've decided to be transparent about those as well. So for all our amazing customers, and especially our regulars, we wanted to let you know a bit more about why our tasting room is closed and is not going to reopen this summer.

The first thing is economic. Tasting rooms aren't where wine sales actually happen, and if you're one of our regulars you already know that. If you need some Parsell Vineyard wines, you give me a call or send me an email, and we make a plan to set you up. We've always done free local delivery, and we especially do that during COVID, but we also meet folks at the winery for pick up. But that's not a tasting room sale for us. Tasting room sales are about 90% tourists on our books, and it's typically someone out of province or from the U.S. who is on the way to the ferry or YYJ. These are fabulous people to meet, and we love talking to these visitors in regular times, but they aren't really out to buy wine, they are looking to taste wine and have a last fun experience on the island. We hear all the time: I love your wine, but I don't want to check a bag at the airport. We love your wine, but we don't want to leave it in a hot car on our road trip. Fair enough. We always figure next time these people are back, maybe they'll stop in at the beginning of their visit. It's all good.

During COVID we closed per provincial order. Now, in the COVID phased re-opening, there aren't many tourists. So reopening a tasting room doesn't make sense for us as a business. To run a tasting room, we open at least five bottles of wine a day, in order to be able to offer a range of samples. If we have a couple of dozen visitors, that makes sense. But if we open five bottles for that one couple on their way to the airport, even if they buy a bottle or two, we lose money. It's a lot like a restaurant trying to stay in business at 25% seating capacity. It's just not possible to square that circle.

And there aren't supposed to be out of province and out of country tourists. We think the province made the right decision in not trying to be the enforcers and in asking people to do the right thing. The right thing is, if you are not from B.C. and you don't have essential business on the island, please enjoy your province this summer and give locals a little space and distance.

Here's the thing: there are people who aren't doing the right thing out there. We tried to reopen our tasting room and picnic area last month. We had a small but significant minority of people refuse to follow social distancing or do the things we needed in order for us to keep everyone safe and comply with public health guidance. That's an issue for us because Rob is no spring chicken. He'd be in a high-risk category. He's also a dad. And his parents both turn 90 next month. So tourists from out of province coming to our tasting room and refusing to social distance is not happening on my watch. Will our business make it through COVID that way? We don't know. It will depend, I guess, on whether our locals stick with us. But since our locals weren't our tasting room folks to begin with, we're hopeful.

We closed the tasting room again after two weeks, and we've decided to remain closed this summer. We are still at Moss St. Market and still open for curbside pick up or delivery.

What is really disappointing to us is that our being closed has now made us a target. We are getting a fair number of calls from out of province visitors wanting to come to the tasting room. A small but significant minority of those people get irate when they learn we are closed. We had two irate and pushy calls back-to-back on Canada Day. We had someone later on Canada Day spray paint out our business name on signage on our road, apparently to signal "closed." Not very Canada Day.

We'd like to thank the District of Central Saanich for immediately coming to fix the sign (which is public property and so means local funds had to be used for cleaning graffiti rather than health care or education). We'd like to thank the Central Saanich police for being so responsive and as disappointed as we are to know that there are people out there targeting family farms who cannot safely accommodate tourism this summer.

To all our regulars, we appreciate your support and good words. To all the tourists, we look forward to welcoming you maybe another summer, but please respect that we're an island with rural health-care infrastructure trying hard to take care of each other. Be safe, be responsible, be kind.

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