Poughkeepsie Journal: Hudson Valley Summit at Culinary Institute Targets Industry For Growth
HYDE PARK – Changes to the state's laws, fees and licenses for small-scale alcoholic beverage makers created a boom in the industry and additional jobs. More state streamlining is in the works.
That's according to business owners, state officials and others related to the drinks industry, who shared successes and challenges at the second annual Wine, Beer, Spirts & Cider Summit.
The Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation hosted the summit Thursday at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. About 400 people attended, organizers said.
"What is really growing in the business is higher-quality beverage alcohol," said James Mariani, the keynote speaker and co-CEO of Banfi Vintners in Long Island.
Mass-produced beer is losing some of its market share. Craft beverages (those produced on a small scale by independent businesses) are gaining, he said.
Selling well in restaurants is important to growth, particularly beer. But it's the same with wine, he said.
"(You) want to get sommeliers excited about it," he said. "It's more powerful than at the retail level."
Choose what segment is going to be the company's heart and soul, he said.
"It's very difficult to be all things to all people," he said.
Thomas J. Donohue, special counsel to the State Liquor Authority, gave an update on laws and regulations that have changed, and those in the works.
Along with the creation of the "farm cidery" license (in October 2013), beverage makers can now choose to market the drink as a wine or a cider. Different rules apply, he said, but "at least you have the option."
The state is eliminating surety bonds — money it can claim in the event disciplinary fees go unpaid — for small manufacturers, he said.
Laurence Gottlieb, HVEDC president at CEO, said a lot of the first summit was expressing issues to the state. He is glad to hear they listened.
Tom Edwards, president of the state Liquor Store Association, said his organization is hosting roundtable discussions in January — during the slow season — at four sites across the state, including the Hudson Valley.
"The retailers have a very large commitment to promoting NY products," he said. "If you want to break into a new markets, get to those roundtables."
Michael Babcock, President of WineRacks.com in Tilson, Ulster County, said at the first summit it was intriguing to see people from the highest levels of state government interacting with and listening to people specifically in the industry.
"You can see from this year all of the changes that have occurred or are in the process of occurring as a direct result of the summit last year," he said.
Emily Stewart: 845-437-4882; email@example.com; Twitter: @estwrt.
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