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How the Silicon Valley Bank Collapse Almost Put Wine Country in a Tailspin

It wasn’t just tech startups that had money in the Bay Area bank

A hand pours red wine into a glass from a bottle. Shutterstock
Paolo Bicchieri is a reporter at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, coffee and cafes, and pop-ups.

As most people have likely heard by now, bank regulators shut down Silicon Valley Bank on Friday, March 10 after the bank suffered a historic collapse. While it might be easy to assume only tech companies and startups banked with the Santa Clara-based institution, there were in fact entire departments within the organization dedicated to small businesses — or, relatively small. The San Francisco Chronicle reports numerous wineries have worked with SVB for more than 30 years, with one person calling SVB “the gold standard” for banking in the wine industry. As such, many of the best and brightest in wine country were at risk of losing substantial amounts of money; the paper reports that since 1994, SVB had “extended more than $4 billion in loans to wineries and vineyards.” Thankfully, the money locked up in SVB accounts is safe and accessible, the Federal Reserve announced Sunday.

Just last week, wineries, winemakers, and all the other workers who contribute to corking Napa Valley’s famous cabernets were not sure how things would play out. Jasmine Hirsch, winemaker and general manager at Sonoma’s Hirsch Vineyards, said her company wasn’t concerned about covering payroll without access to money held by SVB. But for wineries without access to cash, a pause in regular payroll cadence “could be especially devastating to farmworkers, many of whom live paycheck-to-paycheck.” Thankfully, as of Monday depositors with SVB can access their money through a “bridge bank” established in the interim by the federal government. Next, the Fed will hold an auction to see what larger financial institution will take over SVB. Rob McMillan, founder of the bank’s wine division, did not provide a comment to the Chronicle last week.

Palo Alto custard and doughnut shop closes

Lisa King-Lynn and Hansel Lynn’s destination for custard and doughnuts Cudos will close after Monday, March 13, the shop’s last day of service. Palo Alto Online reports the husband-and-wife owners hope to bring the business back in some form in the summer but want to step back and rethink priorities in the meantime.

Clement Street brewing supply shop closes

San Francisco Beercraft closed after almost 30 years of selling beer gear to aspiring brewers throughout the Bay. The San Francisco Chronicle reports the city now has no home brewing store, even though many of Beercraft's customers went on to open businesses including Fort Point Beer Co. and Harmonic Brewing. “Everybody who’s still in the brewing industry in San Francisco has had some sort of relationship with S.F. Brewcraft,” Regan Long, founder and head brewer of Local Brewing Co., told the paper.

Almost 20-year-old Glen Park sandwich shop will shutter

Viking’s Giant Submarines, a toasted sandwich shop that opened in 2006, will close on March 17. SFGATE reports the business owners Betty and Steven Chang are retiring and are ready to call it quits. Locals will miss the banh mi, teriyaki chicken subs, and spring rolls.

Western Addition brewery celebrates ninth birthday

In brighter news, Barrelhead on Fulton Street will ring in nearly 10 years of beer with a birthday bash on March 15. The taphouse will pour West Cork Irish Whiskey in honor of the affair from 4 to 6 p.m., though the party is sure to run longer than that.

Disclosure: Vox Media, which owns Eater, banked with SVB before its closure.