RELEASE: CCBA Files Federal Lawsuit Alleging Arbitrary and Discriminatory Treatment of Beer Manufacturers in Reopening Orders

California Craft Brewers Association Files Federal Lawsuit Against Governor Newsom Alleging Unconstitutional Arbitrary and Discriminatory Treatment of Beer Manufacturers in Reopening Orders

The complaint urges Governor Newsom and the California Department of Public Health to adopt equitable reopening guidance, when it is safe to begin reopening for outdoor dining in 2021


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (December 17, 2020) — The California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) and breweries from across the state of California announced today the filing of a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against Governor Gavin Newsom and California State Public Health (CDPH) Officer Sandra Shewry alleging constitutional violations, including denying beer manufacturers their equal protection rights by requiring them to serve a meal to operate a tasting room, but not applying those requirements equitably across the entire alcohol beverage manufacturing industry.

Current guidelines for reopening issued by the CDPH on July 1, 2020 permits a gradual reopening of businesses, including restaurants, wineries, retailers and other industries. The recent orders broaden the scope of winery privileges, allowing the state’s more than 4,000 wine makers and winery tasting rooms more generous reopening privileges than the state’s 1,050 craft breweries.

In current reopening guidelines, craft breweries are required to provide a sit-down meal in order to reopen their outdoor tasting areas, but the same onerous requirement is not imposed on wine manufacturers. This split guidance creates an arbitrary and unjust distinction between wine manufacturers and beer manufactures. The complaint alleges that this distinction made between manufacturers in the same industry is not based on any difference between the two businesses or their ability to operate safely and does not directly support COVID-19 mitigation efforts, which are widely supported and followed by craft brewers across the state of California.

“When it is time to begin the reopening of businesses in 2021, we need to ensure that a single industry is not arbitrarily divided based on unfounded assumptions,” said CCBA executive director, Tom McCormick. “We want to ensure that the craft brewing industry has the same privileges and the same pathway as other alcohol beverage manufacturers to reopen, re-employ and re-build next year.”

Wineries and breweries are identical manufacturing facilities that operate with the same “risk factors” as identified by the CDPH. The wine industry, which boasts more than 4,000 wineries located all across the state of California, have very similar if not identical tasting rooms to the 1,050 craft breweries. The sole difference between wineries and breweries is the product they produce: wine or beer. Both winery and brewery businesses are indistinguishable in their processes and privileges and should be assigned the same guidelines for reopening by the state.

“The orders from the CDPH unjustly target the small 1,050 craft breweries operating across the state of California. The CCBA urges the CDPH to reassess the current divisive and confusing reopening guidelines so that these small businesses can find a pathway to survive in 2021,” said McCormick.



The California Craft Brewers Association is a 501(c)6 non-profit trade association representing the craft and specialty brewing industry in California. Formed in 1989, the CCBA is the oldest state trade association representing craft breweries. The CCBA is committed to protecting the growth, quality and variety of California’s craft brewing industry. More information about the CCBA can be found at


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