By Kevin Keen. CREATED May 11, 2013
SONOITA, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Pop and pour the bubbly because persistence paid off! A pair of Southern Arizona entrepreneurs wanted to make their own wine and beer, but the state wouldn’t let them. Now, with the support of the legislature, they’re on track to become Arizona’s first vineyard and microbrewery.
When Megan Haller and Shannon Zouzoulas set up shop in Sonoita, they planted grapevines and hops. Their idea: grow, make and sell wine and beer in one place.
They call their retreat, one hour southeast of Tucson, “Arizona Hops and Vines.”
“We thought it was a no-brainer,” Zouzoulas told KGUN9 News. “We thought we could do both.”
But state regulations essentially limited a place like theirs to either being a vineyard or a brewery – not both.
The entrepreneurs had hit a roadblock.
Lea Márquez-Peterson, president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, wasn’t surprised after hearing of the predicament. She said passionate people with business ideas understandably don’t always, for example, know the applicable laws, have the market research and know the customer base.
“We as a chamber of commerce always and many other business organizations always encourage people to do their due diligence,” Márquez-Peterson said. “Ideally, a university or school would tell you to write a business plan.”
She added the internet, nonprofits and government programs can help entrepreneurs.
A lobbyist, Mark Barnes, stepped in to help Hops and Vines. They also worked with the state's Department of Liquor Licenses and Control.
“I don't think there was a lot of real, solid public policy reason why the state law was such” as it was, said the president of Barnes and Associates.
State representatives agreed and backed a proposal to change the law.
“This bill has beer. It has beautiful ladies. It has wine. Now this is a bill we can all unite on,” joked the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ron Shooter of Yuma, at a commerce committee meeting.
Every voting member of the legislature approved the measure. The governor signed it. Now, basically licensed people can make, sell and give samples of beer and wine in one place.
“It's great to have the diversity,” said Hops and Vines customer Ashley Rendon. “Some people are wine people. Some people are beer people. Some people like both.”
“Getting the state law changed allows us to move forward with our business plans, but it also opens the door for industry and entrepreneurship within the state,” Zouzoulas said.
Hops and Vines’ owners need to go through the licensing process and could be on track to be Arizona’s first winery and microbrewery.