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A strausse, which is often called a strausswirtshaft, is a type of tavern and wine shop found in German-speaking countries. These establishments were first arose as places for people to taste and purchase wines sold directly by the vintner and have evolved to include foods that complement the flavor of the wines. In most cases, the primary focus of the strausse is the sale of wine. These taverns are still usually owned by winemakers and can be found in those areas of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland where grapes are grown for wine.
Historically, a strausse was only opened seasonally, when the year's wine was ready, so that winemakers could sell their wine directly to the public. Proprietors let people in the area know that the shop was open by displaying a bundle of flowers, called a strauss, which is how these shops became to be known by their current name. In addition to wine, many of these taverns also sold their own distilled liquors and simple, cold meals. Nowadays, laws that regulate the operation of these taverns state that they may serve food as long as it is simple, traditional German or local cuisine.
In most cases, a strausse is owned by a vintner and is used primarily as a place to sell wine directly to the public. This type of shop is often exempt from certain taxes that restaurants are subject to. There are a number of qualifications that a wine tavern needs to meet in order to be considered a strausse for tax purposes. The tavern can only be operated seasonally and for a maximum of four months each year. Wine, cider, and liquor made on site are the only types of alcohol allowed at a strausse, and the proprietor is not allowed to run the business as an inn by renting out rooms.
Historically, strausses were located at the vineyards. Many of these taverns were housed in farm buildings, such as barns or stables, which provided an open floor plan that could accommodate numerous guests. Though many strausses are still housed in rustic buildings, their popularity in recent decades has led to the development of taverns which are more upscale. Whether they are large or small, a strausse may not have more than 40 seats, though there is no regulation about how many people may be in the actual building, which can have a large bar for people to stand at.