Liberty Lake Wine Cellars feeling the pressure of new restrictions

LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. — Almost every business in Spokane has the same story; They’re struggling to hold out until the most recent COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. But, every business also has their own story about how they’re making it work.

A local winery in Liberty Lake has had to adapt several times throughout the year, all the while keeping an eye on the future.

On a typical Friday afternoon, Liberty Lake Wine Cellars should be packed with people coming in tasting wines, but after the newest COVID-19 restrictions in the state of Washington, that just isn’t the case anymore. The open sign may be on in front and barrels of wine sit inside waiting to be sipped, but make no mistake, the restrictions have had a heavy toll here.

Besides owners Mark and Sarah Lathrop, the entire staff has been laid off.

“Usually we have 50 or 60 in a busy day come through the doors. That’s been cut by about 80 percent,” said Lathrop.

The winery sits only a few thousand feet away from the Idaho border, a place where there are far fewer restrictions at this point.

“With the restrictions on that side of the border, we would be able to operate basically normally expect for that first three weeks in March. We wouldn’t have been effected at all this year with our business model,” said Lathrop.

Before the latest closures, the company switched to a flight model and had limited contact with customers that came in. Now they’ve essentially turned into a store, competing with many of the big box brands. Their wine club, which is a large part of their business model, is also struggling.

“Our industry lobbying groups are working on solutions to get us back open in a limited capacity like we were before because we were doing it safely,” said Lathrop

In a press conference Monday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee said discussions for economic plans are continuing with legislators in the hope to get needed relief to businesses.

“We’re going to keep working legislators, we’ve had some good discussions in the last few days and we hope we’ll have more good news to announce,” said Inslee.

In the meantime, Mark and Sarah continue to produce the most wine they’ve ever made, even with cash flow being cut.

“So the grapes don’t stop. The farmers don’t stop… and the back room and the barrel room, it was busy,” said Lathrop.