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Holiday change raises spirits

County Legislature lifts retail wine and liquor restrictions

Personal Wine Cellar Manager Ernie Darrah, left, and Owner Brian Craig had petitioned the Schenectady County Legislature to ease restrictions placed on holiday alcohol sales. On Tuesday, March 13, the legislature unanimously approved the change.

Personal Wine Cellar Manager Ernie Darrah, left, and Owner Brian Craig had petitioned the Schenectady County Legislature to ease restrictions placed on holiday alcohol sales. On Tuesday, March 13, the legislature unanimously approved the change. Submitted photo

— Liquor store owners are toasting Schenectady County officials for throwing back holiday sales restrictions.

The Schenectady County Legislature on Tuesday, March 13, unanimously approved removing restrictions imposed on the retail sale of wine and liquor during certain holidays. The county limits the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premise consumption from 9 a.m. to noon on New Year’s, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving Day. The changed restrictions will allow sales on the five holidays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Rensselaer County will be the only remaining county in the Capital District restricting sales on such holidays. State law bars the retail sale of liquor and wine on Christmas Day.

Ernie Darrah, manager of Personal Wine Cellar, said he was shocked to find out about the restrictions on Thanksgiving. His family’s previous experience in the industry was in Albany County, so the early closure took an unexpected chunk of his business away.

If one of Darrah’s sales representatives hadn’t stopped in he would have kept selling long past noon, until 6 p.m.

“We were very upset to know that we would lose six hours of business,” Darrah said. “We cleaned up and used the remainder of the day to decorate for Christmas, we had to turn away dozens of customers that came knocking at our door.”

After Thanksgiving, Darrah contacted the Chamber of Schenectady County seeking guidance to lift the restrictions. He admitted he debated joining the Chamber before opening his business in October, but said, “It was money well spent.”

Jim Klump, owner of Scotia Wines & Spirits, said the county is also losing out on sales tax revenue, which he estimated at around $35,000 for the five days.

“Citizens of Schenectady County are going to purchase their holiday spirits somewhere on these five holidays, why not keep the sales tax revenue in Schenectady County where it belongs?” Klump said.

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