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Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Home Food Restaurant Wine Directors Worry About the Future

Restaurant Wine Directors Worry About the Future

He and his fiancée, Carissa Hernandez, left their Manhattan apartment for Charleston, S.C., where his sister, Tracé Conway, is director of operations for the Butcher & Bee restaurant group. He is not sure if he’ll ever move back to New York.

He believes this is a perfect time for restaurant leaders to reinvent the industry, making the sort of structural changes that would permit a more secure existence for workers. “We have operated for a long time with the complete understanding that the system was broken,” he said.

Like Ms. Emokpae, he feels that the past year has been a watershed, and that the wine world is finally grappling with its racial and gender inequities.

“We’re taking the view of the profession out of that white Eurocentric box,” he said. “Inclusivity is going to grow.”

As for restaurant wine programs, he imagines that middle-tier places may gravitate toward smaller lists, but that high-end establishments will build back their inventory as soon as possible.

“There will always be rich people,” he said. “And rich people will always want to drink wine.”

Before the pandemic, Popina, on the Columbia Street Waterfront in Brooklyn, had finally achieved a comfortable business after three years of struggle, said James O’Brien, an owner with the chef, Chris McDade. Mr. O’Brien’s wine list had built a following for its hard-to-find gems, which went brilliantly with Mr. McDade’s singular combination of Italian and Southern American cuisine.

“We had to lay off our staff, and I went into a kind of panic mode,” Mr. O’Brien said.

Quickly, they turned the restaurant into a shop, selling pasta kits, sandwiches and much of the wine collection Mr. O’Brien had so painstakingly assembled. He estimates that its value fell from $60,000 to $25,000 in a week.


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