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News Briefs for December 8, 2011

December 8, 2011

•The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) has opened its latest large-format Fine Wine & Good Spirits store in Philadelphia. Now the largest rebranded PLCB store in the state, the Philadelphia outpost is one of around 10 liquor stores that have recently been renovated under the PLCB’s new, customer-focused retail concept. In addition to an improved floor plan and more welcoming atmosphere, the new store features the concept’s signature center table, which offers staff assistance, a tasting bar and educational and promotional materials. The PLCB aims to redesign all its retail stores over the next five years.

Costco reported a 2.6% increase in profit for the first quarter of fiscal 2012, ended November 20. Net income rose from $312 million to $320 million, while net sales grew 13%, to $21.18 billion. The results, which fell short of estimates, were impacted in part by a $17 million charge associated with Costco’s contributions to the Yes on 1183 Coalition, which supported the privatization of Washington State’s liquor industry. (Initiative 1183 passed last month, granting Costco the right to sell liquor in the state.) Profits were also negatively affected by rising commodity costs, which caused Costco to recently raise membership fees by 10%. Costco operates 596 warehouse stores, 433 of which are in the United States and Puerto Rico.

•Heineken has announced a global marketing partnership with Facebook to create digital campaigns for the company’s brands around the world. The agreement will help Heineken reach over 800 million Facebook users. Heineken says its Facebook fan page is the largest for any beer brand, with over 4.6 million adult users.

•In anticipation of the U.S. presidential primary season, Heaven Hill Distilleries is introducing two new limited edition Bourbons—Red State and Blue State Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskies. Priced at $14.99-$15.99 a 750-ml., the 80-proof Bourbons will be available beginning in January in most national markets. The bottles will feature the political parties’ colors of Republican red and Democrat blue, along with the traditional mascots of elephant and donkey, so that “Bourbon lovers and party-goers nationwide will be able to select the party affiliation of their liking, or perhaps that of a prospective party host, and express those preferences in a novel and spirited way,” Heaven Hill said.

•Just days after taking a 9.9% stake in rival Central European Distribution Corp (CEDC), Russian Standard has offered to raise that stake by an additional 19.9% in return for certain assets of Roust Inc. (Russian Standard’s Russian importing and distributing business) and help with CEDC’s debt load. CEDC says it’s evaluating the proposal. Russian Standard said the group’s new cooperation with CEDC would make Russian Standard “an important player in Russia’s low and middle price vodka segment (through CEDC’s Parliament and Green Mark brands),” and gain exposure for the company in the imported wine segment through CEDC’s Whitehall unit, which imports Concha y Toro and other labels into Russia.

•Celebrity chef Jacques Pepin is opening a bistro called Jacques on Oceania Cruises’ 1,250-passenger Riviera ship in April 2012. The new restaurant will serve freshly prepared French cuisine. Earlier this year, Pepin opened his first Oceania Cruises restaurant on the line’s Marina ship. Pepin has served as Oceania Cruises executive culinary director for several years.

•Renowned restaurateur Stephen Starr will be debuting his latest New York City restaurant, Caffé Storico, in the renovated New York Historical Society building on December 10. The Italian restaurant will initially serve dinner, with lunch and brunch service to follow. The eatery’s décor features many items from the Historical Society’s collection, including 18th-century china showcased in 15-foot-tall display cases.

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