Little Traveler Co-Owner Explains Fallout of Increased Liquor-Law Enforcement
Part 2 of 2: The Little Traveler will receive a W-1 liquor license but the issue of outdoor wine sampling and other similar enforcement issues are still on the table.
When the Geneva City Council members agreed last week to add a Class W-1 liquor license to the city code, that was good news for The Little Traveler, but it is also just one step in an ongoing series of changes in the way Geneva retailers do business in the wake of wine-tasting shutdowns by police at September's Festival of the Vine.
In a Geneva Patch story earlier today, Geneva liquor commission and Mayor Kevin Burns explained why the city closed down The Little Traveler and other outdoor wine-sampling tables during the Festival of the Vine last September.
After last week's City Council Committee of the Whole meeting, The Little Traveler co-owner Michael Simon also took time to explain how the changes in enforcement practices have altered the way he does business.
Strict enforcement of state laws effects other types of businesses in town, as well. Art galleries, for example, have for many years offered a glass of wine to prospective buyers during showings. During Chamber of Commerce festivals, such as the upcoming Christmas Walk, merchants have been known to hand out a cup of glogg as refreshment.
Under state law, those practices are prohibited. The city Police Department enforces state regulations because Geneva cannot set its own. That privilege is reserved for home rule communities with population of 25,000 or more, or those who approve home rule via referendum.
Geneva City Administrator Mary McKittrick says Geneva is close to the 25,000 population figure, but she believes the new Census data, due to come out in January, will find the population short of that number.
Here is what Simon had to say following last week's Committee of the Whole meeting.
Geneva Patch: The fee for the new W-1 license is $2,450 the first year. Do you make enough money at Festival of the Vine wine sampling to cover the fee?
Simon: "Typically, we do, but based on this year, the answer would have been no.
"But you have to understand, (the W-1 license does not address the outdoor wine-sampling issue.) We do wine tasting every day at The Traveler. We have wine vendors weekly sampling their wares."
Geneva Patch: How has your business been effected by the stricter enforcement and greater awareness of state law?
Simon: "The thing we didn't realize, and were informed of by police after the Festival of the Vine incident, was that we were not able to display any wines anywhere except on our wine racks. So we have had wines on display—along with wine holders, picnic baskets, table settings—those had to be removed.
"We also weren't aware that our license to serve wine at the Atrium Café required that someone had to order a meal in order to get a glass of wine, and they could not come in and just order a glass of wine. This new license will allow them to do that."
Geneva Patch: Did you know that you were operating in ways that were outside the letter of state law?
Simon: "Unknowingly, we were not in obeyence of the law for probably about 20 years—along with many other businesses in town who are all finding out gradually but assuredly (that they were not following state law to the letter, either.)
Geneva Patch: Were you satisfied with the approval to establish the W-1 liquor license?
Simon: "It's certainly a step in the right direction, but we all have a bunch more work to do—and I'm hoping the city will work with us to resolve more issues so that we can again have a successful Festival of the Vine next year.
"As it is right now, even though we can sample wine outside, there's no provision that allows us to sell it outside.
"So, if the Festival of the Vine were to happen tomorrow, we could give people the samples, but they would then have to take a ticket and go inside and drink the wine there.
"During Festival of the Vine, we have four registers going pretty much fulltime, and logistically, it would be an impossibility to serve those customers inside The Traveler."
Geneva Patch: What happens from here? What's the next step in the process?
Simon: "We understand that Mary McKittrick is in the process of reviewing the existing ordinances, in hopes of working with the business community to simplify them and make them more (workable) next year. I haven't had a chance to talk with her, but I'm looking forward to the chance of doing so."