Senate passes Lawson bill
to help local wineries


STATE HOUSE – The Senate today passed a bill, sponsored by Sen. Valarie Lawson, that would allow wineries to sell up to three five-ounce glasses and three 750-ml bottles per customer per day on site.

Breweries and distilleries in Rhode Island are allowed to sell a limited amount of their product on site. That’s true even though many of their ingredients come from around the world. Wineries, however, are not allowed to sell their product on site unless the fruit was grown in Rhode Island.

In 2018, winemakers James Davids and Marissa Stashenko left the wine mecca of California in search of a more fulfilling lifestyle. Their journey brought them to Rhode Island where they opened Anchor and Hope, a winery in Rumford, to partner with family farms to produce small batches of artisan wine.

“We instantly fell in love with Rhode Island and the quality of life here,” Stashenko said. “We started our business and are really excited to share our craft with our new community.”

Some of the grapes used at Anchor and Hope are grown in Rhode Island, but some are from out of state. As a result, the winemakers cannot sell their product onsite. Senator Lawson’s bill (2023 S-0039) would change that.

“As legislators, we should be doing everything we can to support small businesses,” Senator Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) said. “This may seem like a small change, but for these businesses, and for our community, it will have a big impact. Customers should be able to come see the wine being made and share a glass with the winemakers.”

The bill now heads to the House where House Majority Whip Katherine Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket) is sponsoring similar legislation (2023 H-5232).

“As craft breweries and craft distilleries grew, we modified the law to allow them to have tasting rooms and sell their product onsite,” Representative Kazarian said. “It’s time to do the same thing for our small, local winemakers.”

To Davids and Stashenko, the legislation would be a great way to grow their business and become more integrated in the East Providence community. “We’re grateful to Senator Lawson and Representative Kazarian for sponsoring this legislation, which would enable us to hire more people and grow our business,” Stashenko said. “We’re just asking to be treated the same as the breweries and distilleries. How great would it be for our community if our neighbors could have a glass of wine with friends right here at their local winery?”