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Highland Lakes tasting rooms reopen with gratitude for customers’ grace

Highland Lakes tasting rooms and taprooms reopen under restrictions

Save the World Brewing Company co-owner Quynh Rathkamp and her team have the taproom ready for orders now that tasting rooms can reopen. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

Fiesta Winery tasting room manager Patrice Streit said the sound was “wonderful.”

“The doorbell rang, and that’s amazing,” she said. “We haven’t heard it in so long. We’re looking forward to having guests.”

In March, Gov. Greg Abbott closed winery tasting rooms and brewery taprooms along with bars in a round of COVID-19 restrictions. He recently announced they could start reopening Friday, May 22, at 25 percent capacity and following strict guidelines regarding sanitation and social distancing.

Staff at Fiesta Winery, 309 Main St., and Save the World Brewing Company, 1510 Resource Parkway, both in Marble Falls, spent the week preparing to reopen under these restrictions.

Both are celebrating in fitting fashion: with the release of new beverages.

Fiesta owners Sally and Steve Baxter personally chose new wines that will be available Saturday.

“We’re so excited to see everybody,” Streit said about the winery’s customers. “We can’t wait to see the wine club family. Everybody misses being here.”

Save the World customers can order the new Gratia, a Belgian-style lager that received its name from a social media poll. It also will be available Saturday. Gratia means inspired by grace and is from the Latin word for gratitude.

“It’s so apropos,” said Quynh Rathkamp, who owns the brewery with husband David. “We, the brewery team, have so much to be grateful for. We’ve had support of people coming out and buying beer to go, and we are grateful for the people who are coming back.”

Starting May 22, Save the World is open from 3-7 p.m. Friday, 1-6 p.m. Saturday, 4-6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, and 4-7 p.m. Thursday. Fiesta Winery is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

No more than 23 people at a time will be allowed inside the Fiesta tasting room. Tables are 6 feet apart. Three of the tables can accommodate parties of five, while two others seat up to four. Staff will clean tables, chairs, and purse hooks after each party leaves. Fiesta also has outdoor patio tables, and guests can bring their own lawn chairs for outside use.

Staff will take orders from patio patrons at the door closest to the Old Oak Square entrance near Main Street. The main entrance from the courtyard to the tasting room is for those sitting inside and overflow orders from the patio. The winery removed products from shelves inside to lessen the amount of disinfecting that would need to be done.

“The preparation is pretty intense as far as making sure we’re in compliance with the number of capacity and we have the proper signage,” Streit said. “We’re not doing full tastings yet; that requires more personal exchange.”

Guests may purchase wine by the glass or bottle from a selection, including the winery’s most popular choice, Back Porch Sittin’.

Save the World patrons are asked to wear masks when they enter the facility’s tasting room to place orders and while standing in line to use the restrooms. Distances of 6 feet have been marked off where lines form. The taproom seating is closed, and guests will only be allowed to sit in the brewing room if it’s raining.

Staff will wear masks and gloves while pouring beer so “people won’t worry they’ll be at risk,” Rathkamp said.

“We’re trying to make sure it’s very clean for our guests,” she said. “We’re going to clean up and bus tables and clean and sanitize tables in between. There aren’t going to be cocktails. We don’t want to be thinking about rims and glasses, so there’s no squeezing (of citrus and similar ingredients).”

Save the World has put in much effort toward being safe while providing a nice atmosphere for guests.

“We don’t want the state to have to shut down the industry again,” Rathkamp said. “So we’re going to do everything we can to make it safe for everyone and enjoyable at the same time.”

Save the World and Fiesta Winery have sold their products curbside over the past several weeks, which they were allowed to do under COVID-19 restrictions. Both Rathkamp and Streit said they were thankful for those orders.

“We have been truly blessed that the community and our customers have continued to place orders to pick up,” Streit said. “We have been here every day. We never fully shut down. We truly have been able to get those calls and fill those orders. Having people come back through the door will be wonderful.”

The two emphasized they’re looking foward to reopening and staying open and note the key is keeping their establishments sanitized to ensure patrons and workers are safe.

“We’re going to do the absolute best we can to keep people happy and safe and the ability to accommodate people as they come through the door,” Streit said. “We do ask for grace and patience as this is new for all of us.”

And if people feel more comfortable taking their favorites home, to-go ordering is still available at both places.