Extended hours get Schenectady County liquor stores in spirit
Archaic law had banned sales past noon on holidays
SCHENECTADY COUNTY Two hours may not sound like a long time, but it could mean an extra grand worth of Thanksgiving liquor sales for Jim Klump.
The owner of Scotia Wine & Liquors won’t be surprised if he makes more than $1,000 in additional sales by keeping his Mohawk Avenue store open until 2 p.m. on the holiday. The added hours were made possible in April after the state Liquor Authority approved a change to an archaic ordinance prohibiting Schenectady County’s liquor stores from remaining open past noon on most holidays.
All of the surrounding counties allow their liquor stores to remain open for normal business hours on the holidays. For Klump, that meant customers were driving past his store and to others in neighboring counties.
“That’s $1,000 in sales that would have gone across the border to Saratoga County,” he said Tuesday.
Klump, who lobbied for the change, is among several owners who will take advantage of the added holiday time Thursday. They say keeping open for even a few hours past noon on Thanksgiving will mean the difference between the sluggish holiday receipts they saw in prior years and the bustling sales they’ve already witnessed since the law changed.
Chirag Patel, manager of Grapevine Wine & Liquor on Gerling Street in Schenectady, will keep his store open until 5 p.m. during the holiday. He said he’s made as much as $1,500 in sales during the three hours he was allowed to stay open during prior years, and he was thrilled to have the chance to have almost a full day of business.
“Let’s see what happens,” he said.
The Personal Wine Cellar on Saratoga Road in Glenville will stay open an extra three hours past noon on Thanksgiving this year. Manager Ernie Darrah said just about any amount of afternoon business will be better than what the store was able to do in only three hours last year.
“If we do a regular amount of Thursday business, it will be better than the absolutely anemic amount we did last year by being open for just three hours,” he said.
Darrah was decorating the store for the holidays after noon last year and got a firsthand look at the amount of business that was turned away. This year, he’s boasting the store’s new holiday hours on social media like Twitter and Facebook, while telling regular customers to stop in for any of their last-minute needs.
“We’ve had lots of people coming in who didn’t expect us to be open,” he said, “and we’ve gotten to tell the story many times.”
The county’s old hours were prescribed during a time when local alcoholic beverage control boards operated throughout the state. Created by the state Legislature in 1934, these boards had broad regulatory powers, including the ability to restrict the hours alcoholic beverages could be sold.
The system of local boards was abolished in 1995, and their regulatory powers were transferred to the State Liquor Authority. But while most other counties in the Capital Region took steps to remove the holiday sale restriction, Schenectady County’s law remained unchanged until owners like Klump argued for it.
Klump was amazed how quickly the law was amended. He was bracing for a protracted slog through the legislative process when both the county Legislature and State Liquor Authority approved the change in time for the Memorial Day holiday.
“I kicked myself that I didn’t open my mouth sooner to get this moving,” he said.
The change allowed Klump to remain open all day on the Independence Day this year. He said that business was a windfall, because the holiday fell on a Wednesday, which is typically slower for liquor sales.
“It was like having two Fridays in one week,” he said.
Dan Maggs, owner of Freeman’s Bridge Wine & Liquor in Glenville, was also happy to have the extra hours on holidays like Independence Day. He said that puts him on a level playing field with liquor stores just a short drive away in neighboring Saratoga County.
But Thanksgiving is a different story. Maggs said he doesn’t plan on staying open past noon because he doesn’t anticipate many people out shopping for booze then.
“It’s a family day,” he said. “We’ll take more hours on other holidays but not on Thanksgiving.”
Niskayuna Wines & Liquors owner Peter Scanlan echoed that sentiment. He said opening on Thanksgiving would be more of a headache than anything else, due to the lack of business and available staff.
“Besides, people tend to shop the day before,” he said.