How To Ensure Your Wine and Hospitality Business Success In 2012

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If you’re preparing to open your own winery or hospitality business you have no doubt heard the warnings “its a jungle out there” or that “most businesses fail within the first five years”.

Whether your winery, restaurant, or hospitality business success or fails, the one sure truth is that you’ll be guaranteed to have some challenging times. Building a successful wine or hospitality business can be a true roller coaster ride. New entrepreneurs often underestimate the difficulty and pain that comes with starting a new business. The responsibilities are great. The time pressures are demanding. The financial investment often comes with significant personal costs.

The good news is that if you have fire in your belly, building your own business into a success will give you a personal sense of satisfaction and joy. It feels good. Thus if you’re starting a new winery, restaurant, or hospitality business in 2012, it is essential that you do it right. Here are just a few good tips:

You should consider preparing an effective business plan.
Know your market.
Watch you cash flow.
Deliver a good product or service.
Implement the right legal protections.
Listen to your customers.
Participate in your industry’s trade organizations.
Hire a good attorney who understands your business.

Arming yourself early on at the inception of building your new winery or hospitality business will go a long way to helping your business grow and become a success. And, by all means, “get in where you fit in”

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Proposes To Modernize It’s System Of Wine and Liquor Sales

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board officials advocated modernization changes today as it faces the threat of privatization by Gov. Tom Corbett and others to privatize the system.

The changes were discussed today at a state Senate appropriations hearing. The proposed changes include:

–Increasing Sunday store closing hours from noon until (currently 5pm) 7 or 8 pm

–Erasing the state’s current limit of only allowing 25% of the stores open on Sunday

–Allowing direct shipment of wine/liquor from out of state online retailers to go direct
to Pennsylvania households versus the current practice of state store product pickup.

–Varying the standard 30% markup on all wine and spirits sold in the stores.

For more on this read: LCB Proposes Changes To Stave Off Privatization

How Not To Have Your Winery or Hospitality Business Lawyer-Up!

Recently I took an unforeseen hiatus from posting to this blog to tend to the needs of my oldest child02dramshop who was recently injured this January in an automobile accident at the hands of a drunk driver. Like most of the mothers of MADD, I too experienced the anguish that comes with that dreadful night in the emergency room, waiting 40 minutes for a simple word from physicians in what felt like a lifetime of silence as to whether my child was to live or die, while the drunk driver walked away with little more than a scratch.

It’s horrible to be in a position wherein despite the fact my daughter suffered a brain hemorrhage, short term memory loss, a fractured skull, broken nose, broken ribs, loss of teeth, and deep facial lacerations, I was relieved to hear the words “she’s on a ventilator, but is expected live”. Two surgeries later, our family is blessed to have her home and recuperating. While her total healing process is expected to take 12-18 months, there are huge economic and emotional losses to recover from as well.

After having lived through this dreadful experience, spending many nights at her hospital bedside and wondering what words of comfort to offer her children who looked to me for words of hope, I am compelled now to post for the benefit of my winery, restaurant, and hospitality business readers how you may protect your business and life’s work from the risks and hazards that come from dealing with visibly intoxicated persons who senselessly create liability for your business. If you do not want to be in a position of having to “lawyer up”, let’s now visit what is important for you to know.

The Dram Shop Law in Pennsylvania makes it unlawful to serve liquor, malt, or brewed beverages to “any person visibly intoxicated”. Dram Shop is third party liability law which makes it possible for 2nd and 3rd parties to sue any person for a death, injury, or property damage. Establishments licensed to sell and serve alcohol are commonly referred to as “dram shops”. These establishments or “dram shops” are liable to third parties for damages inflicted by customers of the establishment, if the customer was sold, furnished or given liquor by the establishment when the customer was visibly intoxicated when served. Selling alcohol to a minor, selling to a visibly intoxicated person, selling alcohol after hours, or selling without a liquor license is unlawful in Pennsylvania. This Dram Shop statute is designed to protect the public at large as well as the person who consumes the alcohol.

If you’re a winery owner on a wine trail for example, and a VIP or “visibly intoxicated person” comes to your winery as well as several other wineries on the trail, and is involved in an automobile accident resulting in an injury to a third party, you and your business are now in the “hot seat”. The same is true if you are a restaurant or bar owner serving bar-hopping patrons who later leave in a drunken state, and kill themselves and or others. Because your establishment can be held liable for injuries it is in your best interest to be diligent in ensuring that intoxicated persons are not served more alcohol. In order for liability to attach, you must have actual knowledge or notice of a customer’s condition before liability is imposed. Thus its important to have your servers trained in alcohol awareness and to teach your staff the obvious signs of intoxication such as staggering, slurring words, loud speech, drinking too fast, etc. and even the more subtle signs that the untrained eye might not see. This kind of evidence helps to dispel the implication that a patron was served while visibly intoxicated.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board created the Responsible Alcohol Management Program (RAMP) to help liquor licensees and their employees to serve alcohol responsibly. Ramp offers advice to restaurants, winery owners, hotels, clubs, distributors and special permit occasion holders to learn to avoid unnecessary liability and to detect signs of impairment and intoxication.

So as to avoid having your winery or hospitality business “lawyer up” in the face of such dreadful outcomes at the hands of intoxicated persons, protect your business and your life’s work by being vigilant in the sale of alcohol and the persons you hold accountable for seeing that your patrons drinking responsibly.

What’s Your Wine’s Pedigree?

The geographic location where your wine is grown, can often signal quality  or baby grapesadd pricing value to your customers.   Commercial advantage can be gained from a consumer’s appreciation of wines originating from a particular “viticultural area.”    The tagging of a wine from an “American Viticultural Area” or AVA can be an important factor to both the wine buyer and the wine seller.    While viticultural areas are not government endorsements of quality, to the consumer the AVA labeling can mean that the buyer can expect a higher quality of wine for the price.   To the seller, the AVA identification on the label can mean an important recognition of value, distinguishing a winemakers products from wines made in other areas.

An American Viticultural Area is the American system of identifying wines in a manner similar to the French “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system.   A concept  created in 1978, an American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape growing region distinguishable by geographic boundaries as defined by the U.S. Department of Treasury Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The TTB defines these regions at the requests of wineries and other petitioners who use the AVA designation on the wine label to denote the geographic origin of the grapes used to produce a wine.   To establish a viticultural area, it must be determined by the TTB that the geographic area is different from the surrounding areas.   The TTB designates these region decisions based on an area’s unique characteristics.    These areas include distinctive soil type, topography, climate, elevation and historical evidence that the region’s boundaries are legitimate. The viticultural area as regulated can encompass more than one county or more than one state.   An established AVA indicates that at least 85% of the grapes used to make a wine must be grown in the specified area.

Pennsylvania’s American Viticultural Areas include the following five regions:

Central Delaware Valley (NJ, PA)

Cumberland Valley (PA, MD)

Lake Erie (PA, OH, NY)

Lancaster Valley (PA)

Lehigh Valley (PA)

The next time you’re having a locally produced wine, check out its pedigree and find out whether you’re enjoying a Pennsylvania “AVA ” wine.   If so, what’s your favorite?

Pennsylvania Wine and The Law: Hey William Penn! Pennsylvania Inquiring Minds Still Want to Know

Quaker-William-Penn.jpg 194X267 pixelsI’m still amazed at the number of times I’ve met new people and engaged in a conversation about Pennsylvania’s wine industry only to find them quite surprised to discover that Pennsylvania wineries are serious industry players that are here to stay.

I get a certain level of enjoyment steering their minds off of California and New York wine regions. Instead, I use the opportunity to speak about Pennsylvania’s rich wine history. It’s a history that dates as far back as 1683, when William Penn first planted vinifera vines. I also get a kick out of letting them know that it was a 1793 meeting of the American Philosophical Society that records America’s first commercial vineyard in Pennsylvania as proposed by Frenchman Peter Legaux to encourage the domestic production of grapes, wines and knowledge of viticulture.

Then… there’s the law! In 1968, the State legislature enacted the Pennsylvania Limited Winery Act . The Pennsylvania Limited Winery Act was the beginning of commercial winemaking in Pennsylvania. It allowed for the establishment of wineries, which currently have a production limit of 200,000 gallons annually. The law also permits the operation of retail sales locations and direct sales to businesses and individuals. Many states in the U.S. now model their state’s legislation on Pennsylvania’s Act.

But the best is yet to come! Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! They soon learn that Pennsylvania is now home to about 120 licensed wineries and 150 grape growers producing approximately 14,000 acres of grapes! Together these Pennsylvania wineries contribute over $600 million dollars in commercial activity to the State.

Pennsylvania’s wine industry is the fastest growing segment of the State’s agricultural community. New world growers recognize that Pennsylvania’s unique climate and attributes allow them some of the best growing conditions to compete on a world level with new varietals appealing to the American palate.

Today, the Pennsylvania wine industry has grown in production. The State ranks fourth nationally for grapes grown and eighth in the nation for its wine production.  This growth has positioned Pennsylvania at the forefront of the U.S. Wine Industry. Pennsylvania’s vintners maintain a well established reputation producing a vast array of award winning varietals gaining critical acclaim nationally and internationally.

So, the next time you have that conversation with friends about distinctive wine regions and those inquiring minds want to know…skip California and New York. Boastfully, tell them about Pennsylvania’s wine industry and don’t forget William Penn.