ADA lawsuits limit wine event
A series of lawsuits have forced at least three wineries to cancel their participation in the fourth annual Nevada County Gold Harvest Wine Trail open house scheduled for today and Sunday.
Nevada County Wine Guild off of Banner Lava Cap Road, Smith Vineyards and Winery south of Grass Valley, and Truckee River Winery in Truckee have canceled their participation in the Wine Trail.
Dennis Ball, a managing partner of Indian Springs Vineyards, said the company’s vineyard near Penn Valley will also be closed. The tasting room on Broad Street in Nevada City will be open, he said.
Ball would not comment on whether the lawsuits prompted the vineyards’ closure. His official position, he said, is that the vineyards are closed because it is the middle of the harvest.
Smith Vineyard is open just once a year to the general public – during the annual Wine Trail.
“We’re extremely disappointed that we will not be able to participate,” said Melissa Damiano, who runs Smith Vineyards with her husband, Joe. “I’m just sick about it.”
But they run a small operation and cannot afford the risk of a lawsuit, she said. “To take the liability (of a lawsuit) is not something that we’re able to do.”
On Aug. 30, Americans with Disabilities Advocates, a nonprofit organization based in Nevada, filed separate suits against four Nevada County wineries, alleging noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The organization, which has reportedly sued more than 100 California wineries during the past two years, filed suit against Nevada City Winery in Nevada City; Sierra Starr Vineyard and Winery near Grass Valley; Double Oak Vineyards and Winery north of Nevada City; and Sierra Knolls Foothill Vineyard and Winery. A hearing is scheduled in Sacramento Nov. 12.
All four are expected to participate in the Wine Trail, according to event organizers. The event is held to increase visibility of local wineries and promote their products.
Damiano and others have said George Louie, executive director of Americans With Disabilities Advocates, is a “career plaintiff” who is not interested in helping the disabled.
But Louie, who was reached by phone in Oakland Friday, said the wineries have had plenty of time to comply with the ADA. The federal law was passed in 1990 and the state law in 1970, he said. “How much notice do they need?”
“What we’re seeking is access,” said Louie, who is disabled. “We’re policing these facilities to make sure they are ADA-compliant.”
Wendell Lee, general counsel for the Wine Institute of San Francisco, said Friday that most of the lawsuit parties he is aware of are settling out of court because it is cheaper.
Participating in the fourth annual Nevada County Gold Harvest Wine Trail from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Sunday are:
? Indian Springs Vineyards1 tasting room, 303 Broad Street in Nevada City.
? Sierra Starr Vineyard and Winery, 11179 Gibson Drive near Grass Valley.
? Sierra Knolls Foothill Vineyard and Winery, near Lake of the Pines.
? Nevada City Winery, 321 Spring St. in Nevada City.
? Double Oak Vineyards and Winery, 14510 Blind Shady Road near Nevada City.
? Iron Mountain Winery1s tasting room, 315 Spring St. in Nevada City.
Tickets are $30. For information, call the Indian Springs tasting room at 478-1068.
– Source: Indian Springs Vineyards
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