Le Dû’s Wines Isn’t Moving Here Anymore

When real estate broker James Famularo of Eastern Consolidated posted this photo of 112 Hudson on Saturday, I was confused, because Le Dû’s Wines was supposed to be moving there (and opening somewhat soon). Famularo said the shop was turned down at the community board, but I suspected it was the State Liquor Authority, because CB1 doesn’t regulates liquor licenses. The SLA website, meanwhile, shows the license as “inactive.”

A reader wise to the ways of the SLA directed me to the webcast of the organization’s October 11 meeting, at which Le Dû’s application was heard (from 27:49). Owners of four local shops—Chambers Street Wines, Tribeca Wine Merchants, Hudson Wine & Spirits, and Frankly Wines—testified against the application. The arguments were mainly about how Tribeca already has a lot of liquor stores. To quote one owner, “From a commercial and public convenience point of view, the last thing Tribeca needs is another wine shop.” To quote another, “The residents deserve to have more diverse retail options and not be subjected to block after block after block of wine stores.”

Personally, I’d submit that the residents deserve to decide for themselves—i.e., let the market decide—but Le Dû’s Wines had a petition with 100 signatures from locals that more or less went ignored. Moreover, I’d wager that Tribecans would far prefer another quality wine shop than one more empty storefront. Last but certainly not least, more wine stores has to mean more competitive prices.

The objections clearly had little to do with the community and a lot to do with the existing wine stores’ self-interest. (Three of them are on the high end, and would compete directly with Le Dû’s.) I understand the notion that the State Liquor Authority wants to moderate the number of liquor stores in a given area, but surely that must be more to protect a low-income neighborhood from being overrun by cheap hooch, not from fancy people have too much access to expensive wine. And I don’t see why the SLA takes testimony from the applicant’s competitors, who would be foolish to do anything other than fight it. These are people who should be recused from the discussion, not invited to it. Is there any other industry regulated in such a bizarre way?

Jean-Luc Le Dû had been hoping that the closing of Downtown Wine & Liquors at 90 Hudson would help its cause; the number of retail licenses in the area would remain constant. (No one mentioned the closing of New York Vintners on Warren.) He was hurt by the relative proximity of Tribeca Wine Merchants, Chambers Street Wines, and—inexplicably, since it’s not an overlapping market—Hudson Wine & Spirits. He tried to argue, as I would have, that there are many new residential buildings in this area, with many more to come; unfortunately, members of the SLA said they were familiar with Tribeca, even though they probably don’t know how much has changed in recent years. (Le Dû might’ve been wise to get Tribecans to testify rather than residents of the West Village.) Perhaps he might have better luck on the eastern side of Tribeca—east of W. Broadway, there are only three liquor stores, none of which would compete with the likes of Le Dû.

16 Comments

  1. This is just absurd. Although I don’t begrudge Frankly, Chambers, etc… from testifying, I hope they don’t begrudge me from not shopping their anymore either. Was looking forward to having Le Du nearby

  2. I agree with Jeff. I’m so tired of all the empty store fronts..I can’t even recall what used to be at 112 Hudson it’s been vacant so long.

  3. This is normal. I tried to open a wine store once in bushwick before it got hot and the SLA hearing is supposed to be for other merchants to plead their case. Nothing to do with customers. All to do with competition. None of those stores would have been doing the right thing without coming to oppose. This goes on all over the city.

    The problem is, SLA rules state that only one wine/liquor store can be owned by an individual so expansion in nyc is impossible so you have to fight the competition.

    Not saying it’s right but hopefully this gives some context to their actions

  4. Maybe we can have a nail salon.

  5. this system is absolutely insane & unfair.

  6. Of course they were turned down. No place anywhere has so many wine shops. It’s getting silly. It takes me 90 seconds to walk to 4, which is ridiculous. To the extent that the SLA regulates how many stores are in a given location, there is no neighborhood anywhere that needs a wine shop less than Tribeca.

    And the author gets it wrong – the market ALREADY decided. The neighborhood obviously can’t support another store which is why one closed down.

  7. “…and—inexplicably, since it’s not an overlapping market—Hudson Wine & Spirits.”

    ???

    It’s a wine and spirits store practically across the street from where someone wants to open up a wine and spirits store. If you don’t think his biz would be affected, and that their markets overlap in a big way, you’re crazy. Vodka is Vodka. Whiskey is Whiskey.

    JL opens up here Hudson probably closes. Guy’s been here almost 20 years, survived the financial collapse, and then someone puts another store right on top of him? That’s stupid. Having limits on the number of liquor stores in a neighborhood just makes sense. Don’t have it, and you get Times Square circa 1985. And a rich version of that isn’t that much better.

    • Those kinds of limits are more appropriately expressed through zoning, in my opinion. The SLA was really established to limit and regulate sales outlets for public health and welfare, not as an agent to enforce oligopolies and cartel economics.

      • Bingo! Nor should they be in the business of picking winners and losers.

        • Yes, and while we are at it, can we also find a way to limit the number of nail salons, early childhood education schools, coffee bars, revolving bank branches, stores that sell kind of cool looking ______ that we really can’t afford…as well as Maseratis, Range Rovers, Escalades and Tesla SUV’s?

  8. I agree that the SLA process is truly bizarre. What other retail business is regulated by an authority that consults with competitors and expressly limits competition? Did the recent rule change prohibiting NJ wine stores from shipping to NYC addresses come from the SLA as well or was that legislated? (I don’t know if this applies to online wine merchants generally, but I know that I cannot order from my go-to NJ wine store anymore.)

  9. Just another example of how broken NYS government serves “special interests” rather than the interests of the people. Next, Wendy’s will need permission from McDonald’s to open an adjacent hamburger store and Tribecans get another vacancy.

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