Wow, what a welcome! On behalf of our entire Total Wine & More team, thank you Brookfield for the amazing response to our very first store in Wisconsin. We are glad to be here, and hope to have a long and positive relationship with every customer we serve and the community at large.
As you undoubtedly have read and heard, our start here was certainly bumpy. Catching me and my team entirely by surprise, the city of Brookfield denied, for now, our application for a Class B alcohol license. In doing so, they have cut out an essential part of our business model – allowing you the consumer to experience the 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits and 2,500 beers we uniquely carry in our store.
As those who visited us during our opening weekend now know, we are much more than a retailer. Our unique customer experience includes educational classes on wine, spirits and beer, many tasting opportunities, wine selection and food pairing classes, a growler station and cutting-edge, on-site technology to help customers make decisions on the latest offerings and newest trends. We do this because we know that our discerning customers value engaging experiences, are regularly looking to learn about the latest and greatest in wine, beer and spirits, and enjoy the opportunity to try something new in an informative, fun setting.
But for now, that is on hold. Our classroom will stay empty and our standard customer events will be on hiatus. In business terms, this accounts to roughly a 20 percent hit to our projected revenues. Had we known we would not be getting our Class B license earlier, we most likely would have made different decisions about where to locate our first store in Wisconsin.
I am encouraged, however, by Mayor Ponto’s letter to the Brookfield community in which he professes to be willing to “make fair and equitable decisions,” and that he “welcomes the opportunity to work collaboratively with businesses and developers.”
So to that end, we ask: will Mayor Ponto and the Common Council work with us to identify a solution that addresses both our concerns?
Despite there being no legal reason for doing so (as confirmed by our and the city’s attorney), the city of Brookfield has made a policy decision to not grant us a Class B liquor license. Their reasoning is the city of Brookfield holds only so many licenses, and rather than granting them to existing applicants they would rather hold on to them for future use.
While we can debate the wisdom of that decision, we’d rather focus on alternative solutions. And there are at least two that are viable right now, today. First, a neighboring municipality has offered to sell one of their excess Class B licenses to the city of Brookfield (for which we will fully reimburse the city) so that the city doesn’t lose one for our use. Second, we have been contacted by other area businesses that wish to sell us their operations and, in doing so, transfer their Class B license to Total Wine & More.
These options are legally permissible with the costs paid entirely by Total Wine & More. These options allow the city to preserve its existing licenses while still allowing continued economic development by organizations such as mine and others. And these are options available to any similar retailer hoping to do the same, creating a level playing field for all. Assuming Brookfield eventually does exhaust its supply of Class B liquor licenses, which they clearly are very concerned will happen, this creates a viable, legal and above board path for upscale retailers like ours to still consider Brookfield as a desirable destination to do business. It’s a win-win.
To be sure, our experience with the city of Brookfield so far has been disappointing. But that doesn’t erase how thrilled we are to be here and serve our customers. Our hope is Mayor Ponto is true to his word and will work with us to reset our relationship and work together towards real, viable solutions that are available at this very moment.
Total Wine & More