ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A new wine business in the Rochester area is looking to sell a niche product that is gaining popularity. However, after being denied their liquor license last week, the owners are now set back even further from their grand opening.
That niche product is natural wine. The new wine industry trend has been gaining popularity in larger cities over the past few years and now Rochester is joining the club. Natural wine is similar to the wine you would buy from a liquor store but sustainably made with very little human intervention.
Brandon Opalich has been in working in the wine industry for almost 20 years. He says natural wine has been sold in restaurants in Rochester for a few years now but wants to make it more accessible.
“I think the advantages that are most seen are agricultural. Just taking care of the earth and allowing people to have the decision on whether they want to support those eco-friendly companies. It should be their right to have access to them,” Opalich said.
Opalich owns Aldaskeller Wine Company on Gregory Street in the South Wedge neighborhood. He has been prepping for the shop’s grand opening for 9 months. He curated the product, found a retail space, and got community support. However, when it came time to get his liquor license, the New York State Liquor Authority denied the request.
“We felt that because we were offering a different product with a different concept that a public convenience would be met. We had local politicians, state politicians, local business owners, distributors I work with all right letters of support for that hearing. I felt that they were ignored,” Opalich said, “The state telling a business, that it’s not a viable business, and doing it rudely and doing it to bully people is just not a proper way of treating constituents of New York State.”
In a statement, the New York State Liquor Authority wrote in part, “Determinations for liquor and wine store applications are based on the legal standard of whether public convenience and advantage will be served by adding an additional store, including an assessment of whether the community is adequately served by existing stores. While the Board had no concerns with this store’s concept, the application was unanimously disapproved based on the proximity of existing liquor stores to the applicant’s chosen location, including one approximately 300 feet away, which presented issues under this legal standard that applies to all applications for new wine and liquor stores.”
According to Opalich, his store would serve no threat to the liquor store down the road, ‘Time for Wine and Spirits.’
“The SLA used, I believe loopholes in this public convenience language to deny my license, but it is my understanding that the distance really shouldn’t be an issue. It’s really about demand,” Opalich said.
Now, Opalich will be filing an appeal to apply for reconsideration to prove the South Wedge neighborhood is a good candidate for a natural wine store.
“My hope is that all the signatures of the petition, all the support letters are going to go a long way to just to prove to the New York State Liquor Authority that Rochester really does want a natural wine shop, they’re ready for natural wine shop,” Opalich said.
Once the appeal is filed, Opalich will receive a formal denial letter and from then on, he is relying on letters of support from the community to restart the process.