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Wichita’s Winefest loses partner for excluding LGBTQ bars

January 11, 2019

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The annual Midwest Winefest fundraiser in Wichita will have to find a new wine distributor after its partner pulled out of the event because organizers decided not to invite back certain bars and restaurants with LGBTQ clientele.

Standard Beverage’s chief financial officer, Angie Wilhelm, told The Wichita Eagle the Wichita liquor distributor will not work with the festival scheduled for April 25-27 this year.

The company has provided wines for the event’s “grand tasting” for more than two decades. But Standard Beverage officials took issue with a recent decision by the event’s organizer and beneficiary, Guadalupe Clinic, to not invite businesses it deemed “morally and ethically” at odds with Catholic values.

The clinic, which provides medical services to uninsured community members, is part of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.

Wilhelm said the company learned that the unwelcome businesses included LGBTQ bars and restaurants. Standard Beverage has been one of the fundraiser’s major donors.

“At Standard Beverage we support practices and beliefs that promote diversity and in being inclusive to individual businesses and other organizations,” Wilhelm said. “We just felt like that was unfortunately something we could not move forward with.”

David Gear, the clinic’s executive director, said LGBTQ bars and restaurants weren’t the only businesses that weren’t asked back this year. Gear declined to list the specific businesses.

“We do not feel as a Catholic Diocese and organization that we can put those establishments on posters and flyers and publications that have to do with the Winefest because they don’t morally and ethically align with Catholic morals and principles,” he said.

The Wichita Chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food also pulled out of this year’s festival.

Mark Douglass, the chapter’s chairman, said some members of the group were concerned with the clinic’s decision, but that the small nonprofit chose to part ways to “focus on projects that are more impactful to our mission.”

The group had long provided volunteers at the event.

The group and Standard Beverage both expressed support for the clinic’s mission, despite their decision to cut ties with the event.

“It was a very difficult decision and one that we didn’t take lightly, especially because the Guadalupe Clinic, they do very good things,” Wilhelm said.

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