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Dear Decaturish – Wine tariffs could hurt small shops

Avondale Estates Business Food Trending

Dear Decaturish – Wine tariffs could hurt small shops

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Steffini Bethea, Owner of the Purple Corkscrew Wine Shop & Tasting Room


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Dear Decaturish,

In 2019, the Purple Corkscrew Wine Shop & Tasting Room saw its most successful wine year yet. Could it be the beginning of the end? If US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has his way, both small independent wine shops like the Purple Corkscrew and restaurants that serve alcohol, servers, consumers and others, will see themselves negatively impacted by the proposed 100% increase in wine tariffs that have absolutely NOTHING to do with wine.

Just a few short months ago in October 2019, the U.S. Government implemented a 25% tariff on the majority of wines imported from specific areas of the European Union. The tariff was imposed in direct retaliation against the E. U. for unfair subsidies that they supplied for a European company, Airbus, a direct competitor to the U.S. company, Boeing. While the E.U. should absolutely pay their fair share of taxes, it still remains unclear what this tariff has to do with wine.

Fortunately for U.S. retailers and consumers, importers and producers took on the burden of the 25% increase. This was a godsend for retailers and consumers alike, as we did not feel the effects of the increase during the holiday season, the time when we sell and imbibe the most. After being in business for almost eight years, the Purple Corkscrew has overcome many hurdles. The combination of a great staff, the best customers, impeccable customer service and amazing wine has brought the Purple Corkscrew a long way. We want to keep going!

On Dec. 2, 2019, upon recommendation from the United States Trade Representative, the U.S. Government announced that it is considering imposing another tariff. This time, the proposition is for 100% tariffs on most wine and spirits imported from the entire E.U. This suggested tariff is in response to a claim that France does not pay their fair share in digital taxes on companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and others. So why wine and spirits? Your guess is as good as mine.  This time, importers and producers will not be able to absorb the cost. The costs will be passed on to retailers, distributors and consumers. That Prosecco that you pay $15 for will now be $30. Enjoy your favorite Cognac but for double the price.

Why don’t we just drink American wine and spirits? Glad you asked. There are a number of good reasons, I’ll just stick with a few. I love American wines. Most of my favorite wines are made in America. However, 30% of the wine sold in my shop is from Europe. European wine varietals have a distinct flavor profile, one that cannot be replicated outside of its borders. For example, if we produced no more Vidalia onions in Georgia, red onions, shallots, green onions or white onions, albeit good, do not serve as a comparable substitute for our beloved Vidalias.

Losing 30% of my business’ wine sales will definitely have a negative impact on not only my business but the four people that I employ and their families. A number of restaurants serve a good amount of wine from the E.U. Servers will be negatively impacted and importers and distributors, most of which are small family-run businesses, will also suffer.

My colleagues and I in the wine industry have had only a few short weeks to raise awareness of the issue while simultaneously fighting this issue by asking our Senators and Congresspersons to stand in solidarity with us as we oppose the proposed tariffs.  We have also put out a “Call to Action” asking the public to contact Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, asking him not to impose these tariffs on our industry.

Do I think that the European Union should pay its fair share of taxes? YES! Do I think that the U.S. wine and spirit industry should shoulder this burden? NO! What I do know is, the 125% increase in tariffs will have a real devastating economic impact on the wine and spirit industry and those that work in it.

– Steffini Bethea

Owner- Purple Corkscrew Wine Shop & Tasting Room

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