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Not just bars: Hill Country wine tasting rooms reopen for daytime drinking

Bars, wine tasting rooms and bowling alleys are among the businesses allowed to reopen Friday under Gov. Abbott's latest order.

FREDERICKSBURG, Texas — Annie Gutierrez and Karen Hanbery have been best friends for decades. They said they try to get together on a regular basis, but haven't been able to for the last two months due to the closure of many businesses as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

"We met in 1992," Gutierrez said.

"Probably the longest we've been apart, right?" Hanbery added. 

On Friday, the pair was able to resume their normal tradition of having a glass of wine and lunch out in the sprawling Texas Hill Country. On the same day that many Texans prepared to take advantage of the slow reopening of nightlife hots spots, wine rooms int the 

As many prepare to take advantage of the slow reopening of nightlife hot spots, wine rooms in the region are also welcoming back patrons like Gutierrez and Hanberry. 

Hanbery said she called around to the various vineyards before deciding on Slate Mill Wine Collective.

"We figured we'd grab our masks, our sanitizer, and we're going to get out and go," Hanbery said.

The pair sat inside the reopened wine tasting room at Slate Mill Wine Collective in Fredericksburg on Friday. Earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced wine rooms and bars would be able to reopen at 25% occupancy.

The news was welcomed both by Hanbery and Gutierrez, and staff at the Slate Mill Wine Collective, especially heading into Memorial Day Weekend.

"We're expecting a really widely attended weekend, and we're offering service to any level that you feel comfortable with being out," said Jennifer Beckmann, Slate Mill Wine Collective's director of operations.

Beckmann said while the vineyard closed its doors in March, they were able to keep all of their staff thanks to curbside, home delivery and online orders. She said staff members have also since planted more than 50,000 vines. 

The vineyard also left its patios and sprawling outdoor space open for guests to have picnics or a glass of wine. And now, after the governor's latest order, it's reopening its wine-tasting room.

Beckmann said that, for the time being, the vineyard is not requiring reservations and that seating will be on a first come, first serve basis. Staff will also be required to wear gloves and a mask during all wine tastings.

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