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News Briefs for August 5, 2011

August 5, 2011

•The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s (PLCB) wine kiosk initiative in PA grocery stores may soon come to an end, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The PLCB, which acknowledges the kiosks have not met the consumer enthusiasm that was expected, also contends that the contractor producing the kiosks, Conshohocken, PA-based Simple Brands, owes the state nearly $1 million. Under the contract between the two parties, Simple Brands provides the kiosk machines at no charge, and must reimburse the state for expenses and upkeep on the machines. The PLCB says Simple Brands—which earns 50 cents on every bottled sold through the machines, as well as selling advertising on them—has failed to reimburse them. PLCB CEO Joe Conti says if the dispute with Simple Brands isn’t resolved within 45 days the kiosk program will shut down. Last month, PLCB chairman P.J. Stapleton told Shanken News Daily plans to expand the grocery kiosk program into spirits had been abandoned, adding that the initiative has had a “rocky road.”

•During yesterday’s stock market plunge Foster’s share price on the Australian Securities Exchange fell below the level of SABMiller’s A$4.90 ($5.10) per share bid for the company for the first time since the offer was made in mid-June. Foster’s shares dropped 4%, in line with Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, to A$4.79 ($4.98) at the market’s closing. Foster’s CEO John Pollaers recently said the brewer would be open to considering future takeover bids, but that SABMiller’s $10.4 billion offer for the business—which leads the Australian beer market with a 50% share—was far too low to consider.

•Craft beer pub chain World of Beer is planning to expand out of its native Florida with the help of two former Outback Steakhouse executives, Ben Novello and Jim Pollard, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. The Tampa-based chain, which was founded four years ago by Matt LaFon and Scott Zepp, currently operates 13 locations in Florida, with seven more in development. Outside the Sunshine State, Novello says World of Beer has struck deals for 128 new outlets in 11 states as well as franchise agreements in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. World of Beer locations boast as many as 500 beers on offer, including 40 taps per unit, as well as wine and cigars.

•According to Wine Spectator, New Jersey wineries’ offsite tasting rooms—and, consequently, the New Jersey wine industry itself—have received a stay of execution. In December 2010, the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that New Jersey’s wine laws were unconstitutional because they discriminated between in- and out-of-state wineries, out-of-staters not being permitted to open their own retail outlet tasting rooms. The problem would have been alleviated by either of two proposed bills in the New Jersey State Assembly and Senate permitting out-of-state wineries to open tasting rooms in the Garden State, one of which would also have permitted limited direct shipping. Both failed to pass in June, leaving New Jersey wineries’ last hope an appeal of the Circuit Court ruling in July, an appeal that the judge was widely expected to reject. Last week, however, U.S. District Court Judge Katharine Hayden stayed the case until March 2012, giving New Jersey lawmakers another chance to resolve the issue when their sessions resume following this November’s elections.

•Three years after Metromedia Restaurant Group had to close Bennigan’s restaurant and bar locations nationwide due to bankruptcy, new owner Bennigan’s Franchising Co. is attempting a re-launch of the brand in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The group is hoping to find franchisee takers for 10 restaurants between the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Houston, five between San Antonio and Austin and several single units in smaller Texas cities. It’s also developing a “Bennigan’s On the Fly” format for airports, colleges and other similar venues.

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