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Alameda Wine Company Must be on the Brink of Failure Before the City of Alameda Allows Operating Hour Changes

Although the local print newspapers covered Alameda Wine Company owner Karen Ulrich’s dilemma over the operating hours her City of Alameda landlord is insisting upon, before her appeal, we didn’t see anything in the paper after her appeal.

We watched the appeal before Alameda City Council, sitting as the Community Improvement Commission, on the City’s webcast and now the meeting minutes are available. Ms. Ulrich rents space from the City in the Megaplex, and she wanted the City to relax her operating hours to let her stay closed during the lunch hour on Mondays and Tuesdays, when she conducts no trade. She found soon after opening that although she thought she was running a retail wine shop, she was effectively running a bar that did the most business in the evenings when the Alameda Theater was busy. (The Alameda Wine Company holds a Type 42 “bar, tavern” alcohol license – no one under 21 is allowed to “enter and remain” in the shop, and it does not require food service.) She wanted to close during the lunch hour early in the week so she wouldn’t have to pay employees to staff the shop, or staff it herself when there are no customers.

“No Dice” said the City. A lease is a lease, and the tenant is expected to adhere to it. According to the meeting minutes: “Commissioner [Frank] Matarrese moved approval of deferring any change to the lease until the business faces possible closure.” Basically, Alameda City Councilmember Frank Matarrese favors running the Alameda Wine Company into the ground before trying to work with the owner over lease provisions that might help her keep the business open, or least let her keep her sanity.

Mayor Johnson said that the owner “needs to determine whether she can run her business in a way that complies with the lease requirements; otherwise, the owner should consider moving to another location.”

Ms. Ulrich’s request to modify her operating hours were denied, with Johnson, Gilmore and Matarrese passing the motion.

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