What’s in that bottle?
That’s a question some operators are getting from local liquor authorities more often these days. Recently, I’ve noted an increase in reports of establishments — some of them top-end venues — being fined for pouring a spirit other than what’s on the label.
Are operators being cheap, or are liquor authorities simply looking for more revenue? I suspect a little of both. Refilling or topping off liquor bottles with less-expensive spirits is an age-old illegal practice, one that a typically upstanding barkeep or owner might be tempted to indulge in as they ponder ways to keep the lights burning and the doors open. By the same token, liquor authorities are undoubtedly being doubly diligent in their inspections, as fine revenue demands are likely at an all-time high.
Here’s the bottom line: The best operators manage smart through tough times. That means avoiding the temptations of illicit practices and making sure to always be in compliance with regulations. The short-term spike in profits from refilling bottles, for example, is more than likely undone by the high fines levied, not to mention the inevitable drop in guest counts. Face it, today’s drinker is savvier than that of a decade ago, and they’ll catch on pretty quickly if you’re pouring something other than what you say (or the bottle label indicates).
Now is not the time to cut corners or play fast and loose with regulations. Big Brother and your patrons are watching. Now is the time, as Eddie Dean of Pacha NYC said during a recent panel discussion at the New York Bar Show, to “do everything by the book.”