The New York-based Culinary Institute of America, which has trained a lot of our most famous chefs, planned to open a full-service restaurant at its Napa Valley campus. The idea was to give student chefs hands-on experience, the way barber colleges run student barber shops. One of the attractions to the nonprofit CIA was the prospect of wine donations from local wineries.
However, the plan ran up against a 60-year-old California law that forbids restaurants serving alcoholic beverages to accept donations from alcoholic beverage producers or suppliers. The law was originally aimed at the specter of monopoly. There had been "tied houses," or bars serving only one brand of liquor, before and even during the Prohibition era.
Sen. Mike Thompson (D-Napa Valley) successfully argued that the law would "hurt a new business it never intended to touch," and the State Senate has passed bill SB408 permitting wine donations in this particular case. The bill now goes on to the Assembly for concurrence. A spokesman for Thompson said he expected no opposition from the Assembly or Gov. Pete Wilson.