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News Briefs for January 9, 2012

January 9, 2012

•The U.S. Appeals Court for the Fourth Circuit has found for E&J Gallo in a case related to the Alamos Argentine wine brand. The suit was brought by Country Vintner of North Carolina, which distributed Alamos in North Carolina when it was marketed by previous importer Billington Imports. Gallo gained U.S. import rights to Alamos in 2009 and terminated the brand’s ties with Country Vintner, which sued in state court for “unlawful termination or failure to renew without notice, unlawful termination or failure to renew without good cause, and illegal dual distributorships,” adding a claim under the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The Appeals Court affirmed a previous District Court decision that Country Vintner’s distribution rights “did not survive a change in importers” and dismissed the trade practices claim. Alamos, produced by Argentina’s Bodegas Esmeralda, was an Impact “Hot Brand” in 2011 after more than quadrupling its volume to 345,000 cases in 2010.

•The number of U.S. craft breweries producing beer in aluminum cans has tripled since 2009 to about 150, the Washington Post recently reported. By the end of this year, half of the U.S. market’s top 25 craft brewers are expected to be utilizing cans, which have gained favor due to lower shipping costs and canning lines’ smaller spatial footprint versus bottling lines, as well as better portability and ability to keep out oxygen. One problem with aluminum cans is the tendency for their linings to contain the chemical Bisphenol A, which has been linked to endocrine and reproductive issues. Still, even longtime skeptics like Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer, are now exploring cans for some of their products.

•Restaurateur Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) have opened North End Grill in New York City’s Battery Park City. Described as an American bar and grill concept, North End Grill will feature food from “Top Chef” contestant Floyd Cardoz, who most recently served as chef/partner for Meyer’s shuttered Indian fusion restaurant Tabla. USHG, founded by Meyer in 1998, has a portfolio that includes popular New York restaurants Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke & Jazz Standard, Shake Shack, The Modern, Café 2 and Terrace 5, Maialino and Untitled. USHG has expanded significantly within Battery Park City of late, recently opening both Shake Shack and Blue Smoke outposts in the neighborhood.

•Ruby Tuesday Inc. reported a 4.2% decrease in same-store sales in its fiscal second quarter ending November 29, as compared to a 4.2% increase in the year-earlier period. Same-store sales decreased 6% at domestic franchised locations. However, revenue for the casual dining chain rose 5.9% from the prior-year period to $307.5 million due to franchise and partnership opportunities. The group reported a net loss of $2 million for the period. After a tough first quarter, the company unveiled a new recovery plan that included new menus targeted at budget-conscious customers. Ruby Tuesday operates 829 company-owned and franchised restaurants globally.

•Celebrity chef Marc Forgione is opening an 11,000-square-foot, 300-seat steak house called American Cut in the forthcoming Revel Atlantic City casino. Chef Forgione joins celebrity chef Jose Garces, who will be debuting three restaurants in the new casino, which is slated to open in May, as reported in the December 9 issue of Shanken News Daily.

•Chef and restaurateur David Chang is planning to transform the bar space attached to his Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York City into a “technology-heavy cocktail lounge,” Zagat reports. Chang is collaborating with Dave Arnold, director of technology at the French Culinary Institute, to open the new concept in roughly two weeks. The lounge, whose name hasn’t yet been revealed, will offer 22 cocktails that showcase molecular gastronomy techniques, as well as food items similar to those of Momofuku Ssäm Bar.

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