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Boordy Vineyards is taking orders and payments over the phone and will bring your wine to your car.

beveragemedia_may20_retail_covid_BMG_covid_logo_Some are getting by with a little help from their friends. Or, in the case of Jimmy Spiropoulos, operator of Town Center Market in Riverdale Park, a few special customers.  "We're now working behind sheets of Plexiglas that we have installed," he said. "They're hanging from the ceiling at each one of our five checkout counters. Basically, I went and bought five large sheets, and I had one of my local handymen -- who's actually a customer of mine -- install them. Customers seem to really appreciate the steps we've taken to try and protect everyone."

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Posted by on in May 2020 Editions
Powered by to-go packaging, new signage, and a dose of social media, restaurants like Route 66 in Manhattan shifted gears to stay open after the dine-in shutdown. Photograph courtesy of Route 66

Powered by to-go packaging, new signage, and a dose of social media, restaurants like Route 66 in Manhattan shifted gears to stay open after the dine-in shutdown. Photograph courtesy of Route 66

Fine dining turns to takeout to save (some) jobs during the coronavirus shutdown

By Kathleen Willcox 


beveragemedia_may20_retail_covid_BMG_covid_logo_Forced into survival mode by the coronavirus pandemic, many restaurants and bars shuttered. Those that stayed open have had to drastically rework their businesses, many pivoting to takeout and delivery for the first time. Menus were scaled down and revamped, pricing was adjusted, and beverage service was completely reimagined.

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Posted by on in May 2020 Editions
Beast PDX was among many that had hoped to open for take-out, but after weighing costs and benefits, chose to temporarily close. Photograph courtesy of Beast PDX

Beast PDX was among many that had hoped to open for take-out, but after weighing costs and benefits, chose to temporarily close. Photograph courtesy of Beast PDX

Slammed by unprecedented shutdowns, the restaurant industry braces for a hard-to-predict future

By Beverage Media Editors 


beveragemedia_may20_retail_covid_BMG_covid_logo_The two-week stretch from St. Patrick’s Day, 2020, to the end of the month, will surely be recorded as the biggest shock in restaurant history. Mandatory dine-in shut-downs in every state left millions of servers, dishwashers, line cooks, and bartenders suddenly jobless.

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Vine Wine in Brooklyn was among many retailers setting up new store protocol. Photograph courtesy of Vine Wine.

Vine Wine in Brooklyn was among many retailerssetting up new store protocol. Photograph courtesy of Vine Wine.

After seeing early sales spikes, merchants deal with shifting consumer behavior and regulations

By Courtney Schiessl 


beveragemedia_may20_retail_covid_BMG_covid_logo_The industrys one bright spot during the devastating coronavirus pandemic has been the recent weekssurges in wine, beer, and spirits off-premise sales across the country. Even as the on-premise sector shuttered and Americans were confined to their homes, consumers were very much drinking. For many alcohol retailers (deemed essential businesses in most states), business boomed as consumers stocked up on alcohol, alongside toilet paper and household disinfectants.

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Fishpaws Marketplace in Arnold, Md., features a unique tag line both in store and on its website: "It's not a shopping trip … it's an experience!" And that is truth in advertising. This independently owned  business has operated at the same location since before Prohibition. Today, it offers an extensive selection of imported and domestic wines; an assortment of craft, microbrew, imported, and domestic beers; and a broad array of liquors and gourmet cheeses and foods.

Kim Lawson is the proprietor. And she is a firm believer that experiential retail is the way to stand out in today's crowded and intensely competitive market. Touting her store's features, she said, "We have a 12-tap draft system to accommodate crowler and growler fills. We have a Napa Technology Wine Station -- we call it the Wine ATM -- which allows customers to sample one-, two-, and four-ounce pours at any time. And we employ a certified cheese specialist, who will assist you in pairing your cheese or charcuterie course with your beverage of choice."

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As the Beverage Journal continues to closely monitor reports concerning the COVID-19 outbreak and the guidance being provided by the relevant health and government authorities, we want to ensure you that our Dynamic Search database is fully operational. 

State/National Resources

Industry Relief & Activist Efforts

Resource Hub for Customers

  • Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits has launched sgwscustomercare.com — an online hub for trade customers, providing COVID-19-related updates and resources for businesses in the hospitality industry. It includes federal and state-specific guidance for employers and employees; SGWS customers can also sign up on the website to receive email updates as new information is posted on the site. 

News Impacting the Industry

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Miller Continues to Blaze a Family Trail

There is a special kind of pressure that comes with running a legacy business, a family business, a business that has been in operation in one form or another for over 100 years. Many people aren't able to handle that pressure and cash out. The Millers of Prince George's County are a
different breed!"

In 1913, B.K. Miller Sr. opened a general store in Clinton, Md., across from where B.K. Miller Meats and Liquors is located today. Over the decades, that store sold everything from groceries, meats, and lottery tickets to clothing, building materials, and even coal. At one time, it was a beer distributor.

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Photos courtesy of Truly, White Claw and Barefoot Hard Seltzer

As brands proliferate, beer and wine companies push the category in new directions to gain a competitive edge

by Joshua M. Bernstein


This winter’s National Football League playoff season featured a different kind of Budweiser commercial: Randy Diaz, the fast-talking fictitious mayor of Seltzer, Pennsylvania, professing affection for Bud Light, as well as another beverage inside a slim, lanky can.

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"I graduated from Clemson University in 1990. I graduated on Saturday, I drove home Sunday, and went to work
Monday … and I haven't stopped since!"

The Clemson alum is Jimmy Spiropoulos. His home is Maryland. His place of work? Town Center Market in Riverdale Park, a store his father Pete started in 1988 with the purchase of Dumm's Corner Market. The Spiropoulos family moved the business from that 1,700-square-foot location to its current and much bigger address on Queensbury Road in May 2012 and changed the name.

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Why should Scotch have all the grand-finale fun? Egan's is among many Irish distillers finishing their whiskey in sherry casks; “Fortitude” ends up in PX sherry barrels.

Why should Scotch have all the grand-finale fun? Egan’s is among many Irish distillers finishing their whiskey in sherry casks; “Fortitude” ends up in PX sherry barrels.

No Other Whiskey Category has Exploded Quite Like Irish has this Century

By Amanda Schuster

Irish whiskey’s reputation as a mellow, one-dimensional spirit is being upended by an unprecedented amount of innovation and diverse new entrants. According to the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS), the high-end premium Irish whiskey category, representing SRP of $20 to $35, grew 1,106 percent between 2002 and 2018. And entries over $35 grew by a staggering 3,385 percent.

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Matias Michelini's Passionate Wine vineyard. Photograph courtesy of Matias Michelini

Matias Michelini’s Passionate Wine vineyard. Photograph courtesy of Matias Michelini

Newly defined subregions in the high-elevation Uco Valley are producing some of the country’s most exciting wines 

By Kristen Bieler


We make mountain wines here,” says Sebastián Zuccardi, stating the obvious. He’s standing in front of the solid-stone winery he built two years ago in Uco Valley’s Altamira district at nearly 4,000 feet above sea level where his estate vineyards practically hug the snow-capped Andes Mountains. 

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Posted by on in March 2020 Editions
Raised by Wolves in San Diego has its back bar in the round.

Raised by Wolves in San Diego has its back bar in the round.

Making Difficult Inventory Decisions In An Era Of Rapid-Fire Releases

By Jack Robertiello


Consider the back bar. Part billboard, part shelving, this humble swath of bar architecture has become a battleground for a multiplying field of brands vying for a scant number of slots. “With back bar space being at a premium these days, it is very cutthroat when it comes to bringing in new product,” says Steve Walton, head of beverage at High West Saloon in Park City, Utah.

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Chuck Ferrar, proprietor of Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis, turned 77 this past year. And while he says things like, "I still love the interaction with customers, but I'm fading out," there's no doubt his light is going to continue shining in Maryland's beverage business for some time to come.

"I'm retiring," he said in a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "and my son-in-law David [Marberger] is going to run the store every day as he has for the last couple of years. I also have a grandson in college who wants to come in, too. So, we're anticipating three generations."  Then, he added, "because David runs the store now, I can afford to be active in the various associations and spend time with the Legislature when it opens up. Many people hate it, but I thoroughly enjoy it!"

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Enjoying the Maryland Beverage Alcohol Industry Legislative Reception are Del. Sid Saab, Dist. 33; Del. April Rose. Dist. 5; Del. Haven Shoemaker, Dist. 5; and Del. Matt Morgan, Dist. 29A.


The Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA), the Licensed Beverage Distributors of Maryland (LBDM), and the Maryland Beer Wholesalers Association (MBWA) welcomed industry members and Legislators to their annual Opening Day Legislative Reception at the Governor Calvert House in Annapolis on January 8.  The event is held annually on the afternoon of the opening day of the Maryland Legislative session.  

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John Bodnovich, Executive Director of MSLBA's national affiliate - American Beverage Licensees (ABL), administers the oath of office to the newly elected MSLBA officers.  L to R: MSLBA Recording Secretary, Kevin Storm of Frederick Wine House; Vice President, Mike Scheuerman of Friendship Wine & Liquors in Harford County; President, Aashish Parikh of Cranberry Liquors in Carroll County; Treasurer, Marshele Burgess of Rip's Country Inn in Prince George's County; Financial Secretary, Pete Samios of Carroll County, and
John Bodnovich of ABL.


 

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Posted by on in February 2020 Editions
Bay Grape in Oakland, California / Photo by Becca Wyant

Bay Grape in Oakland, California / Photo by Becca Wyant

Improving your physical inventory system saves money, headaches—and yes—even time.

By Christy Frank


Nobody opens a wine shop because they love to track inventory. But any successful retailer knows that routinely taking complete stock of your shop’s largest asset—that’s right, every single bottle—is essential to long-term success. Inventory is cash in liquid form, so closely monitoring it is key to identifying best- and worst-selling items, reordering efficiently, and spotting possible theft.

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Bill Oertel has worked for the family business for 35 years now. He grew up in it. And this year, he is its new, incoming President. That business is Harris Crab House & Seafood Restaurant, which is situated on the Kent Narrows Waterway just four miles east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Oertel's grandfather, Bill Harris, started the operation -- initially a seafood processing business -- 72 years ago. And for more than seven decades, Oertel said, "we've been in business on the Eastern Shore selling and buying seafood. Around 1980, he wanted a place where all of his grandkids could work. So, he started a little crab shack on the [front dock of the W.H. Harris Seafood Processing House] that had picnic tables and just sold crabs and shrimp. Pretty much all of his grandkids worked there and grew up there. Most of us haven't really left."

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A year ago at this time, the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) and other small business interests were gearing up for a 2019 General Assembly where nearly 30 percent of the members were new. That was a lot of new flesh to press, a lot of new ears to tug, a lot of new hearts and minds to win over to our industry's issues and concerns.

But guys like MSLBA Legislative Chairman Jack Milani and attorney and MSLBA lobbyist J. Steven "Steve" Wise were definitely up to the task.  "It was a learning year for a lot of folks," the former conceded, "especially with regards to alcohol legislation. It can be a difficult learning curve, and we know that. So, we did our usual Lobby Day and made sure our members connected with their legislators. All we ever want is an opportunity to explain our side. Sometimes legislators agree with us. Sometimes they don't. At the end of the day, you just want to feel like you were listened to."

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Revel's Avila is not just a new spirit – it represents the formation of a new category under the agave umbrella.  Like tequila, Revel Avila is distilled using 100% Blue Weber agave; however, that's where the similarities stop. Avila can only be produced using agave grown and distilled in the Morelos region, a small state in the south central part of Mexico with a distinctive terroir that's evident in the taste of the final product.

Unlike the Tequila region, which has been in operation for 400+ years, Morelos (the only place Avila can be produced) is new to agave growing, boasting pristine, alkaline-rich soil. The farmers and distillers share an unwavering commitment to authentic processes and techniques like natural bat pollination and the use of volcanic roasting pits.  

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Posted by on in January 2020 Editions

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The Vineyards of San Valentino were born from a dream and a great passion for the land and its fruits.  The vineyard is located in the region of Emilia
Romagna (Italy) on the hills of Rimini, but a few steps from the sea. Roberto Mascarin and his family have been producing wines from this territory bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the east and by the first peak of the Apennines to the west since 1990.

Their ViVi, Colli Di Rimini Rebola D.O.P. 2017 Organic Selection, wine is dedicated to Valeria Vivian, wife of Roberto Mascarin. The first vintage he made for this wine was the 2017, which is when he lost his wife to cancer. 

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Mike Scheuerman pictured here with his wife Sheila, his 25-year-old son, Zach; and his 21-year-old daughter, Sara;
all contribute to Friendship Wine and Liquor's success.

Owner Mike Scheuerman on his Store's Success,
"We're Pretty Hard Core!"

Those are the words Mike Scheuerman used to describe his and his staff's dedication to their customers. Scheuerman is the owner of Friendship Wine and Liquor in Abingdon, Md.

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It was 10 years ago that the late Joey Smith left a thriving career in Florida commercial real estate to return to his home state of Maryland and form Prestige Beverage Group (PBG). Smith did not live to see this decade milestone. Sadly, he passed away from
lung cancer at the age of 33 in April 2016. But even in his last weeks, he put a plan
into motion that would ensure the long-term viability of his business.

About two years prior to his death, Smith began exploring the possibility of a merger with Ledroit Brands. He and Michael Cherner, who was then a managing partner at Ledroit, realized they had a similar vision. They also recognized the potential for increased market synergy. At the time, PBG was focused on the Maryland, Delaware, and D.C. markets, while Ledroit covered the District of Columbia exclusively. Their belief was that by combining the two firms, it would allow them to more effectively serve their customers and suppliers in all three markets.

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Posted by on in December 2019 Editions

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The Next Great Retail Invention?

What's been the most important invention in grocery retail over the decades? The cash register? Sure. And it's been updated frequently over the years with the latest computer and barcode technology. Security cameras? Certainly, such tech has significantly cut down on shoplifting. But many believe a more basic invention is what built grocery and packaged-goods retail into what it is today. The shopping cart!

The shopping cart was invented in 1937 by Sylvan Goldman, owner of the Humpty Dumpty grocery chain. He realized that once people's hands were full, they left his stores. So, he invented the shopping cart, which ultimately compelled people to stay in stores longer and buy more goods.

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Posted by on in December 2019 Editions
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American-Made Sparklers are also enjoying the bubbly wave

By W. Blake Gray


As stores prepare to stack up cases of sparkling wine for the holiday season, U.S. bubbly producers are rubbing their hands with glee.

Even without a competitive boost from the U.S.-E.U. trade war—sparkling wines are exempt from tariffs imposed in October—the market for U.S.-produced sparkling wine has never been better. Some of this is the rising tide of bubbles in general. Sales of all sparkling wines in the U.S. rose 5.6% by volume and 9.6% by value between 2014-2018. The U.S. now spends more money on sparkling wine than any other country—25% more than France, which is second—and is third in the world in consumption by volume, after Germany and Italy, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

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Marshele Burgess is proprietor of Rip's Country Inn in Bowie, a business that's been around for more than 65 years. I write "business" because Rip's is really four concepts in one -- a restaurant, a bar, a deli, and a wine and spirits store. In a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, Burgess talked about the challenges of overseeing such a complex operation and living up to a decades-old legacy. "What makes Rip's special is indeed our size and the combination of things we offer," she said. "We have over 100 employees. So, it's a challenge keeping everyone happy and them doing what you want them to do."

Burgess continued, "The fact that it has been here so long at this location has been an asset. We've seen the area grow around us. We are right on 301, a mile south of Route 50, and right at the edge of  197. Those are all major arteries. We get a lot of customers from our area who are regulars, and then we get a lot who are traveling through our area. It's quite a customer base."

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It's GAME on for partners Tilford Brockett and Bruce Caughman.  GAME Vodka, to be precise.  The duo is hoping their new product will become the vodka of choice for sports enthusiast throughout the Baltimore-Washington corridor and ultimately beyond.

And the two entrepreneurs are willing to get a little "in yo' face" if it means winning in this particular niche. For one, GAME is being marketed as a "vodka with balls."  Now, of course, Brockett and Caughman are cheekily referring to GAME's bottle art, with five different bottles each featuring a separate graphic of a football, baseball, basketball, tennis ball, or soccer ball.  But theirs is not a drink for winners of a participation trophy. They're hoping GAME Vodka will become known as "the taste of victory" whether you're a spectator or a player.

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The Jack Daniel Distillery has introduced the newest member of the Jack Daniel’s family … Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple is a blend of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey with finely crafted apple liqueur.

“Mr. Jack was known for being an innovator and always exploring how to do things differently, including adding different flavors and ingredients,” said Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett. “Tennessee Apple couples the character of our Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey with the taste of crisp, green apples. It’s like a freshly picked apple in a glass of Jack.”

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Single Malt Scotch Distillers Keep Pace with Whiskey Boom

By Jack Robertiello


When a city like Edinburgh, once a center of whiskey-making, gets its first distillery in 100 years, you’d think it would make some noise across the pond. But like with the opening and restoring of other distilleries in Scotland in the past few years, the news of Holyrood Distillery goes mostly unnoticed.

Meanwhile there is a host of new malt facilities blooming in Scotland, which now boasts about 120 distilleries in operation. Some, like the expanded and recreated Macallan, are well-known, while others­­—the ninth malt distillery on Islay, called Ardnahoe, Ardgowan in Inverness, Lagg on Arran—are among many which have opened in the past few years without the American market noticing, probably because it will be some time for the whiskies to make it here.

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Ben Golueke (pronounced Go-leck-e) started in the beverage business when he was just 15, working at his father's packaged goods store in Cockeysville Md. He worked there throughout high school and on breaks from college. After graduating from Radford University in 1996 with a degree in Business Management, he didn't have to wait long for the opportunity to run his own store.

"I've been owning and operating Mt. Airy Liquors since August 1997," he stated during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. Back then, the store was a 3,200-square-foot operation. He and his staff moved the business within the same shopping center in 2011 to its current 5,400-square-foot space. But it's not the size of the store that matters. "Mt. Airy Liquors stands out because of our customer service," he remarked. "The Mt. Airy Liquors crew is like one big family, too, which helps with the morale of the store. When I hire good employees, I make sure to keep them. I have employees that have been here from six months to 17 years!"

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Joseph "Joe" Stanley, the former Vice President of Sales and Marketing at F.P. Winner, passed away July 18, just four days shy of his 71st birthday. And everyone I talked to who knew him told this journalist the same thing, "Don't make your tribute article a sad one. Joe would HATE that!".

So, I'm not. This article will only briefly mention his stroke in 2008 that forced him into early retirement. Instead, it's going to focus more on the people he touched, the careers he shaped … and the time he nearly ate 50 pot stickers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards!

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Throughout Maryland and elsewhere, more and more vineyards, wineries, breweries, and distilleries are hosting special events on-site.  In some cases, they're putting on shows -- quite literally -- to get people to come out and taste their products. For instance, the Fiore Winery and Distillery in Pylesville, Md., offers its Music in the Vineyard series every Saturday night through mid-September.

Among the most active, though, is Boordy Vineyards in Hydes, Md., nestled in the heart of Baltimore County's Long Green Valley. Every Saturday evening during the warm months, the property hosts a Summer Concert Series that features a diverse array of local bands and performers. And every Thursday afternoon/evening in the summer and well into the cooler months, Boordy offers its "Good Life Farmers Market."  

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Unlike most packaged goods stores, Buzzy's Country Store in St. Mary's County doesn't have to do much to generate … well … buzz. It's been around in one form or another for decades. The current proprietor, J. Scott Ridgell, has been a part of the store since he was a child as his father, Clarence, and mother, Jean, bought the business from Jean's dad in 1954. Clarence operated the store until his death in 2007, passing the torch to J. Scott.

One of the first questions Ridgell fielded 12 years ago from locals was: "Are you going to change the name?" It wasn't even a consideration. "Buzzy was my dad," Ridgell said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. "My mom still refers to him as 'Bussy.' When he was a boy, he was the third youngest of 12, and he was always 'busy.' But he preferred Buzzy. So, when I took over in 2007, everyone wanted to know, 'Are you gonna change the name?' And I'd answer, 'Why?' Everyone knows us as 'Buzzy's!'"

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Julianne Sullivan's life story up until this point reads almost like one of those Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas TV-movies that permeate both networks each year from Thanksgiving on. She grew up and graduated from high school in scenic, small-town Cape St. Claire, Md.; moved away and established a thriving career in real estate, working in such major markets as Los Angeles and New York City; only to return home to Cape St. Claire to run the charming, small business that's been in her family for decades.

The business?  Bella's Liquors, which was started by her grandmother and grandfather -- a Navy man and Pearl Harbor survivor who put himself through night school and eventually earned an accounting degree -- with financial help from Sullivan's great-grandmother. "They started it as a bar and restaurant, and they had a license to sell on and off," she recalled. "That was 1964, and my grandfather saw that the off-premise business was really picking up. So, he expanded that. Around 1974, he moved to the location we're at right now … and we've been here ever since."

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Over the past few months headlines repeatedly scream about an impending trade war between the U.S. and, depending on the week, just about everybody else. Among the debated questions – who really pays the higher tariffs?  Of course, the media could never be helpful enough to explain that the ultimate consumer price/producer profit impact will vary with the product in question, strength of demand, availability of alternate products or sources, etc. Suffice it to say that adding costs is rarely a good thing, and that increased government revenue from tariffs will almost always be an expense shared in varying degree by buyers and sellers. 

The beverage alcohol business is in the unenviable position of being a weapon/victim of both the U.S. and many trading partners. Alcohol beverages often seem to be selected for new tariffs that will get the attention of the other side. Even though trade disputes about unfair practices impacting free trade in alcohol beverage products are generally fairly minor, we keep getting drawn into the battles we initially played no role in. 

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Tito’s Handmade continues to be a market leader and the centerpiece of Texas’s burgeoning vodka scene.

Tito’s Handmade continues to be a market leader and the centerpiece of Texas’s burgeoning vodka scene.

By Jack Robertiello


When Burnett’s, a top ten vodka brand with dozens of flavored versions, underwent a redesign last year, those in charge of the brand decided it was time to proclaim front and center: “Made in America.”

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Hendrick’s Gin, widely credited with opening new botanical frontiers in the 1990s, released not one but two extensions this year, Orbium and Midsummer Solstice.

By Jeff Cioletti


Ever since it emerged on the scene more than three centuries ago, gin, for all intents and purposes, has been identified as a quintessentially British spirit—or, at the very least, British by way of Dutch, thanks to the influence of the latter’s genever on the former’s iteration.

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Some VIPs in attendance were Jane Springer, Executive Director, MSLBA; Goose Kaiser, Past President, BCLBA; Dan Minnick, Former Delegate and Owner of Minnick's Restaurant; Jeri Zink, Executive Director, BCLBA; Paul King, President, BCLBA (King Liquors); and Jack Milani, Legislative Chairman, BCLBA/MSLBA (Monaghan's Pub).


Members of the beverage alcohol industry recently gathered for the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association’s (BCLBA) Rockin’ the Races event at the Timonium Fairground Grandstand Concourse.  Industry members from all three tiers and from all over Maryland joined the fun.  Attendees enjoyed live music, bartender competitions, corn hole toss competitions, beer, wine and liquor tasting stations, local restaurant tasting stations, pig on a pit, pit beef, raw oysters, money wheels, liquor wheel, betting on the ponies and much, much more.

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Seventeen independent beverage licensees from states across the country have been recognized as Brown-Forman Retailers of the Year. Nominated by their state licensed beverage associations for commitment to their state associations, dedication to the beverage alcohol industry and their success in business, these licensees were honored in a ceremony at the ABL Annual Meeting. 

For more than two decades, the Brown-Forman Retailer of the Year awards have celebrated retail beverage licensees who engage in the responsible sale and service of beverage alcohol, are committed to their state beverage associations, and demonstrated excellence in innovative retailing. ABL congratulates all of the honored businesses and licensees for their outstanding and continued contributions to their state associations, the industry and their communities.

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Despite the profound sadness over the passing of Speaker Busch the day before, work continued on Monday, April 8, until the curtain closed at midnight (sine die).  With that came the end of 90 days filled with new faces in both chambers, and new Committee leadership in the Senate.  This was the first year of the four-year term, following the 2018 election, which brought nearly 60 new legislators or almost a one-third turnover in the 188 member General Assembly.  New legislators constituted over half of the membership of the Senate Education, Health and Environment Committee (EHE), where alcohol bills are considered.  That Committee also had a new Chairman in Senator Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), who kindly spoke to those who attended Lobby Day on February 21st, as did new House Alcohol Subcommittee Chairman, Delegate Talmadge Branch (D-Balt. City).

The goals of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) for this year were largely achieved, thanks to the efforts of our members and in particular our Legislative Committee, which reviewed, discussed and took positions on each of the 164 bills we identified as impacting the industry, amidst the nearly 2,500 total bills filed.  Our Legislative Committee’s work was made more difficult than usual, since nearly half of the bills were introduced just ahead of the deadline during the week of February 4th, almost 30 days into the Session.  This was a symptom of the 2018 election, which gave legislators, particularly new ones, less time than usual to prepare their legislation.

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Know this much to start: the United States is embarking on its greatest decriminalization effort since the end of Prohibition. Until the federal government gives its legal green light to cannabis, a confusing and difficult transition will remain difficult and confusing. But the states-rights pattern has been established, and while no one can (yet) say for certain what will happen in regards to beer, wine, and spirits consumption, cannabis is entering the Conversation faster than you can say “don’t bogart that joint.”

“My friends in Colorado, Washington and Oregon are quite candid about potential lost sales, but most are sanguine about the future,” says Kansas City’s Doug Frost, MW, MS. “It’s tremendously challenging because no one knows how the next steps unfold, other than that every state will want a piece of the cannabis tax pie. Regardless, the genie ain’t going back in the bottle.”

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Posted by on in March 2019 Editions
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Irish Whiskey keeps growing—in size, selection and value

With all the new distilleries, brands and line extensions emerging from Ireland, whiskey retailers have an unprecedented array of choices that show no sign of narrowing. Accordingly, the proverbial Irish eyes are still smilling broadly at this vibrant sector. Powered by Irish whiskey’s inherently smooth style and the swelling popularity centered on a handful of powerful, widely available brands, the category is not just small and mighty—it is expanding dramatically in breadth.

Take two recent additions stretching what Irish whiskey can be: Dingle and The Sexton. Dingle produces distinct small-batch single malt releases—the third finished in ex-bourbon and Port barrels. The Sexton arrives as an especially young (four years old) malt whiskey meant for category novices and cocktail makers.

After decades of relying on the light and fruity blended triple-distilled spirit that predominates, Irish styles are exploding. Single malts and pure pot still expressions, of course, but also grain whiskey, double distilled variants, peated malts and extended aging and finishing in non-traditional barrels—rum, marsala, or exotic woods like acacia. There’s even an Irish rye now. 

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Tim Miller has gone from being a successful oilman to the owner of National Premium Beer. But he doesn't really see it as that big of a leap. During a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, he remarked, "I tell people, 'It's the same thing!  We're using the same kind of practices we used in the oil business, and I'm still delivering liquid. It's just in a can or a bottle and not in a truck'"

Miller was indeed the third generation to head his family's oil business, joining right after college and running it until 2001.  Working at his grandfather’s company over the years, he developed an appreciation for vintage advertising, signage, and fuel pumps.  After Miller sold the company, he became a Realtor with Benson & Mangold in Easton, Md. But his interest in antiques and old signs persisted. One day in 2002, he saw some vintage beer signs in an antique store and thought, "Wouldn't it be cool to bring back an old beer brand?'"

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Posted by on in March 2019 Editions
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Bar Biz: Some save time, some add flair… 
little things can really elevate a bar’s game

While most of the attention in Cocktail World lands on bars and restaurants pushing the limits or carving out narrow niches, the vast majority of operations that serve drinks have a myriad of concerns beyond drink-making. Given that and increased customer knowledge and expectations, what is the average bar and restaurant to do to up their cocktail game?

Kim-Mixing_hi-resIf you ask  consultant and author Kim Haasarud of Liquid Architecture (pictured), for clients that are relatively new to craft cocktails, keeping it simple but better is the right approach.

“Those simple, three-ingredient cocktails are really in fashion right now and there are so many really good spirits out there. You can make some pretty great drinks using simple ingredients,” she says. Drinks like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds score very high on most drink menu surveys, she notes, and any number of tweaks—adding a dash of Chartreuse to a Margarita, or an amaro to spice up a Whiskey Sour, or using split bases, like bourbon with Cognac or tequila with mezcal—can smartly customize standard recipes.

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Posted by on in March 2019 Editions

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Hunter Douglas is the bar manager at Hank’s Oyster Bar Dupont Circle and just-opened Hank’s Cocktail Bar, part of the Washington, D.C.-based Jamie Leeds Restaurant Group.

Beverage Journal: How does Hank’s Cocktail Bar, an industry hangout that originated in Petworth and is soon to re-open in Dupont Circle, differ from the oyster bar, where guests eat lobster deviled eggs and sip libations like the I Dream of Pralines (pecan-cinnamon-infused bourbon, Licor 43, burnt sugar, ginger/orange bitters)?

Hunter Douglas: Hank’s Cocktail Bar is our playground and a space to dive into some of the District’s most exciting beverages, but both concepts share the philosophy of JL Restaurant Group by featuring the use of fresh produce and seasonal ingredients. Customers leave having experienced consistently well-made cocktails to fit their mood, and there is an opportunity to play and be overly adventurous, enjoy a slight variation of your favorite or stick to what you know and love in either place. 

BJ: There are now four locations of Hank’s Oyster Bar. How has the group’s beverage vision evolved along with the growth of the JL Restaurant Group portfolio? 

HD: JL Restaurant Group establishments now have regionally-recognized bar programs that are built on the success of our past initiatives. The aim is to be playful while remaining grounded in classics. For example, a few of the new menu categories at Hank’s Cocktail Bar are “We Invented the Remix,” “Beertails” and “Size Matters.” We’re serious about our cocktails, but want the atmosphere to be comfortable, social and a D.C. must-visit.

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Posted by on in February 2019 Editions
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Hennessy’s “Master Blender’s” series, representative of the trend toward creative limited editions, is composed exclusively of high-quality eaux-de-vie that have been set aside specifically to be used at the Master Blender’s discretion.

 

Taking After Whiskey, The Classic French Brandy Is Getting Hot, Trading Up And Branching Out 

By Jack Robertiello

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A Beverage Biz Look Ahead at the 2019 Session

The 2019 General Assembly Session is just around the corner, and the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) is once again gearing up to play a big role in looking out for the beverage industry's interests.  This means guys like MSLBA Legislative Chairman Jack Milani and lawyer and MSLBA lobbyist J. Steven "Steve" Wise are expected to step up and drive the discussions.

So, what's different about this coming year?  For one … legislator turnover!  "We just had statewide elections back in November," Wise observed, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "Somewhere between 25 percent and roughly 30 percent of the General Assembly will be new.  So, it will be even more of an ongoing effort to educate legislators as to how our industry works, the issues that are important to us, the small businesses that are affected by everything that is done with alcohol in Annapolis, and so forth. This will be the most important thing MSLBA and the other industry associations will do in 2019!"

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Posted by on in December 2018 Editions

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Think Millennials are a tricky bunch? Meet Generation Z…

By Kit Pepper


After 15 years on center stage, Millennials are about to have to share the spotlight with a new generation whose arrival will rock the consumer scene: Generation Z (or iGen), born from about 1996 to 2012.

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What happens when a noted property developer and one of Maryland's most reliable plumbers team up? They're hoping the end result will be "two new great places to eat and drink!" 
John Roe has partnered with Len Bush (a.k.a. "Len the Plumber") and are hoping a building they own and are renovating at 37 W. Cross St. in Baltimore's Federal Hill will be 2019's newest hotspot for wining and dining.

Roe, who began his professional career managing his father's tavern in Laurel before transitioning into commercial real estate brokerage in Baltimore during the late 1990s, had ironically been trying to reach the owner of this particular building for a couple years. But he could never get a return call from him. "It appeared to be vacant, and it was one of the larger buildings in Federal Hill," he recalled. "Finally, an agent we knew asked if we'd like to take a look at 'some building in Federal Hill.' When she drove us up to it, I couldn't believe it! It wasn't formally on the market, but she was good friends with the owner so she arranged a tour. After that, we knew we had to have it."

Bush described the structure as "love at first sight." He added, "This property had all the character and charm of an old industrial building that I knew we could breathe new life into. Sitting in the heart of Federal Hill, it's one the last remaining historic properties left undeveloped in the area."

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Posted by on in November 2018 Editions

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For wine and spirits merchants, the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. Also the most harrowing.

In November in particular, time and space collide as stores hustle to make room for season-specific merchandise. As is the case every year, suppliers have dug deep into their sacks of merchandising and marketing tricks to create gift-worthy pre-packed wines and spirits.

The idea behind Value Added Packs—aka VAPs, as they are often called—is simple: to make gift-giving even easier for shoppers. People love shortcuts. People love “extras.” VAPs deliver both. Whatever their motivation, VAPs offer prepackaged routes to gifting success—a resolution to which merchants and shoppers alike aspire.

Of course, not every VAP is going to suit your current store and clientele. Be mindful of stocking new products at varied price points—for the Prosecco budget and Champagne budget, so to speak.

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Riggs Liquors in Northeast Washington, D.C., has risen from the ashes like the Phoenix of lore.  That mythological bird lived in the desert, consumed itself by fire, then later rose renewed from its own ashes. By most accounts, the phoenix lived for 500 years before rebirth. Riggs was only down for 18 months.  But don't say "only" to owner John Yoo.  He thought he'd be back up and running in six months after an accidental blaze destroyed his store in December 2016.  It wouldn't be until June of this year.

So what happened?  In late 2016, Yoo was having some work done on the front overhang of his store's roof section in preparation of a new awning.  The workers had stripped it all down to the bare metal.  But because the metal itself was heavy, they opted to do the work on a Sunday because there would be no people interfering with the job.  

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