A winery was denied a liquor license, does NYS have the right to determine if it’s viable?

As a sommelier at several local restaurants, he began to notice a trend.

“There were all these natural wines that were showing up in all these restaurants, but nobody was, I guess, willing to take a risk buying a bottle because they weren’t quite sure what it tasted like, so I thought it was a great concept,” he said. recalled.

He and his wife invested their savings to remodel a small shop in the South Wedge section of Rochester and open Aldaskeller Wine Company. There is a liquor store on the same block as Opalich’s storefront, but he says his concept is completely different and he intends to offer only natural and organic wine products. , “focusing on biodynamic agriculture, low-intervention winemaking techniques, vegan wines, sulfite-free wines.

He applied for his liquor license 9 months ago and finally got his ALS hearing on Wednesday, it didn’t go as he hoped.

After briefly explaining his vision, the following exchange took place:

Vincent Bradley, ALS President – Let’s say you sell for $150,000. He can’t run a store with $150,000 worth of natural wine?

Attorney of Opalich – Maybe not, but I respectfully believe it’s up to the applicant to make an effort.

President Bradley – That is to say, but here’s what happens on a regular basis when people come here and tell me they’ll only serve organic and natural wines, they realize pretty quickly that it’s not economically feasible, and then they come back and they want to be a full-blown liquor store and at that point I shut them down.

When Opalich and his attorney tried to explain the local market research they had done, Chairman Bradley responded by saying, “We know the world of natural wine, it’s in New York much more broadly than in Rochester for probably a long time. before I sit here.

Then, says Opalich, Bradley insulted him again about how he funded his business, saying, “all the money seems to come from your wife, doesn’t it?” – Opalich and his wife are partners in the business.

Ultimately, all three ALC board members voted to reject the request.

“I was very disappointed with the behavior of the New York State Liquor Authority. I felt they had made their decision on my request before they even got there, I felt disrespected,” Opalich said.

He also questioned his right to a free market.

“The state doesn’t decide what a community wants, the community decides that,” Opalich said.

In a statement, an ALC spokesperson told News10NBC, “Decisions on applications for the sale of liquor and wine are based on the legal standard that public convenience and benefit will be served by the addition of an additional store, including an assessment to determine whether the community is well served by existing stores. Although the Board has no concerns with the concept of this store, the application was unanimously disapproved due to the proximity of existing liquor stores to the applicant’s chosen location, including one located about 300 feet, which presented problems under that legal standard that applies to all new liquor store applications.

Opalich says he’s already paid nearly $2,000 just to apply for a license and the Aldaskeller Wine Company is his dream, so he plans to file for reconsideration as soon as possible.

Since the hearing earlier this week, more than 2,600 people have signed this petition saying they would support a natural wine store in the South Wedge neighborhood.

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