Wine Goddess owner Diana Hamann is worried that if she doesn’t make a big change soon, she might be forced to relocate out of Evanston.

The owner of the wine shop at 702 Main St., said big box wine stores, and especially the recently opened Trader Joe’s in Evanston, have negatively affected her sales.

Hamann has repeatedly approached the Liquor Control Review Board in the past complaining about business difficulties and restrictions on her operations.

Hamann, along with Sandeep Ghaey, owner of Vinic Wine Co., located at 1509 Chicago Ave., asked the board today to amend their licenses to include on-site wine by the glass sales.

“That would be the difference between life and death,” Hamann said.

She suggested the amendment be crafted to permit by-the-glass sales at the three wine specialty shops in town, with a possible provision to require that 90 percent of retail space be dedicated to wine — a measure that would bar by-the-glass sales at larger retailers like Trader Joe’s

Fiscally, Hamann said it’s not realistic for her business to upgrade to a restaurant-style facility, and she has no interest in serving food, aside from a basic cheese plate.

And she said the community would benefit from this concept with a “female friendly” alternative to a typical bar, a place where knitting groups and book clubs could get together and also enjoy a glass of wine.

“The community already wants this,” she said.

The board appeared amenable to the idea only if a cap could be placed on the number of glasses sold.

Ghaey and Hamann suggested that two six-ounce glasses would be a reasonable limit.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl asked City Attorney Grant Farrar to draft the proposed liquor code amendment for discussion at a City Council meeting Oct. 28.

Top: Diana Hamann, with hand raised, discusses her business’s troubles as Evanston Mayor and Liquor Commisisoner Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl listens.

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  1. Wine shop woes

    I'm sympathetic to anyone whose business is struggling. However, I wonder exactly when did this wine shop owner suddenly realize that retailers like Whole Foods (two Evanston locations) and Trader Joe's could and would compete with her for customer sales? She needs to find ways to differentiate herself, and soon!

    1. She is trying to differentiate herself!

      Differentiation is exactly what Hamann is trying to do! 

      I wasn't sympathetic to her complaints about the taxes a few months ago, but this proposal makes perfect sense.

      Let's also remember that she has been around longer than Trader Joe's–AND–she didn't get a handout from the city, like the German multinational did.

      She has a great shop and this idea of wine by the glass should be a no-brainer.

  2. Differentiate herself?

    Isn't that exactly what she is trying to do?

    The city bought TJ a $2M parking lot as in investment in future tax revenue.  Please invest something in the small guys too!

  3. This is a rational proposal

    This is a rational proposal from a small merchant, excatly the kind that adds texture to Evanston's retail quilt and draws customers to this hard-to-reach town.

     It would be a shame if something along these lines was not promptly enacted.

  4. Needless regulation

    In response to "wine shop woes": it seems to me that trying to differentiate herself is exactly what she's doing, with her idea to sell wine by the glass. The problem is: she can't because of these stifling liquor regulations. If she were allowed to innovate and compete, she would, and will.

    The only part of this proposal I don't like is the part about preventing Trading Joe's and other stores from doing it too. She shouldn't be afraid of that, and should welcome the competition. Her advantage will be individualized service, and specialization, and knowledge… and hopefully she'll be able to convince people to take home bottles of the high-priced wine she sells. I don't see many people being tempted to go hang out and TJ's and drink three-buck Chuck among the throngs. Maybe it won't work for "Wine Goddess" either, but it's an interesting idea and there's hardly any rational basis to oppose it.

    1. Agree

      The "90% dedicated to wine" provision doesn't cut it. Not sure if TJ's and Whole Foods may already offer samples. Doubtful they're interested in what Vinic and Goddess have proposed, or would feel much threatened by local specialty shops. What's good for the neighborhood is good for all.

      1. WHINE shops

        Whole Foods does offer wine sampling.   Such is life in the world of open competition.   Ms. Hamann I'm sure, knew that as a shop owner in a very competitive world.    That's the risk people take when opening businesses.   She needs to stop crying on people's shoulders.   

        1. Wine samplings

          Wine Goddess already has wine tastings. Also sells beer.  Perhaps the actual problem is location and not much foot traffic on Main Street. Have any of the posters wandered Main Street in the last six months? It doesn't get as much attention as Central Street. Perhaps that would be better location. Just a thought.

      2. Wine bar

        All the Wine Goddess wants to operate is a Wine Bar that sells bottles of wine. Since most of  the places products are Wine of course she would have 90% of sales being Wine, either  by bottle or glass.

    2. Constraining competitors

      Her request is reasonable until she wants to prevent others from doing something.  If the consumers aren't comsuming, it's up to the business to adapt, not modify the law.  "Free market"….right?

      Where are all the people on this site who are always complaining about too much regulation?  This only serves to add more alcohol legislation to a city that many agree already over-legislates alcohol.

  5. It sounds like a reasonable approach

    I'm not much of a wine drinker myself and have never been inside either of these stores, but I do value the diversity of stores and shops in Evanston.  I don't see any downside to allowing this new approach that enables specialty wine shops to create a niche that sets them apart from the TJ's of the world.

    Let's hope this can get speedy approval from the city.

  6. Many wrongs don’t make a right

    When businesses start demanding TIFs, protective legislation, and/or other "carve-outs", they are signals that the economic landscape is not otherwise competitive or conducive to profitable commerce.

    In Evanston and greater Illinois, taxation and regulation have made it largely uncompetitive compared to neighboring areas.  As a result, businesses ask for special benefits in order to remain or relocate.

    This is a dangerous game.  As more businesses receive special benefits, remaining competitors must operate at an unfair disadvantage, leave, close, or demand their own benefits.

    That is where requests like this one originate.  The Wine Goddess' Diana Hamann isn't asking for a level playing field. Quite the contrary, she is asking for a very special carve out that would put her competitors at a disadvantage.

    Such is the slippery slope of public-private partnerships. When businesses use government to erect barriers against the competition and/or provide a competitive advantage, it leads to less competition and higher prices. It's crony capitalism on any scale.

    If Evanston and greater IL are really interested in increasing business investment, they need to address the barriers that keep business away by addressing prohibitive regulation and taxation rather than giving more special favors paid by (the remaining) taxpayers.

    In closing, my sympathy goes out to Diana Hamann, as I don't envy her trying to compete in an area where she is competing against larger businesses, some of which have already received their own "special favors".  However, perpetuating this practice will further aggravate the situation rather than solve it.

  7. Oh, pshaw, pshaw

    Cry me a river … if your prices are too high,  it's the price you pay.  How's the Alcove doing, by the way?

  8. Support this proposal

    The city should support this proposal.  Dianna has distinguished herself by her knowledge and willingness to provide honest personal service. I have attended many of her classes and events and her willingness to create a community of wine students with loyalty to Evanston should be commended. Through her educational endeavors she is building a cadre of loyal customers that fiscally benefits the city. Let's expand that opportunity. As has already been pointed out, she has operated thus far without a monetary investment from the city. Therefore, any tax revenue is already a net for the city compared to other retailers such as Trader Joes. 

  9. A rephrasing of the request

    Dear Mayor:

    Some of our local residents who have frequented my shop have chosen to start going to a competitor because of better selection and prices.  This clearly calls for intervention by the city government.  It goes without saying that big box stores are evil.  I am sure you will agree that the people of Evanston would be worse off if they could not get access to my small box.  Please pass an ordinance that arbitrarily creates a privilege for my shop over my compeitor's.

    Kind Regards,

    Desparate Shop Owner

  10. Is Evanston the new USSR?

    Since when did the city government start dictating free market business policy?  If we keep on this present course, one day we will have to stand in long lines for toilet paper, bread, meat and vodka soley for the purpose of giving every misguided business owner in Evanston (trying to make political connections) a chance to make a living.   And who says that history isn't important?

  11. Wine merchants

    Are the customers of the Wine Goddess and those of Trader Joe's really the same?  I have serious doubts about that. 

  12. Fair shake

    Vinic and Wine Goddess together make a reasonable request. It's not like they're begging for a handout. They're asking for nothing more than permission to do what they do best. Wine-by-the-glass tastings will only help them better exploit their niche as premium wine shops offering hand-picked selections, personal service, and expert guidance and education. We're glad to have TJ's and Whole Foods. But we want our storefront specialty retailers in the mix. Fine by me if the City acts to support the big and the small in our neighborhood marketplace, especially if all it requires is such a commonsense adjustment to liquor privileges.

  13. This small wine shop

    Noteworthy: This small wine shop opened up only recently — long after the Trader Joe's was in the making. This isn't a shop that's been around for 30 years, it's an overpriced pop-up wine store.

    (I actually live within a few  blocks from this wine shop, and like many people in South Evanston, I can't afford this store in my own neighborhood. If it wasn't for the "three buck chuck" at Trader Joe's, I'd still be drinking tap water).

    So, I'm not a big fan of blaming the Trader Joe's. That was a predictable competitor all along, and this kind of complaint makes it sound like people are trying to keep Evanston artificially expensive.

    Nevertheless, I'd support her proposal. I think it is both hilarious and outrageous that Evanston is still trying to be a "dry city" in 2013. Disallowing people to sell a glass of wine at a wine shop? What century is this?!

  14. Wine Shop Woes

    Hello everybody, 

    It's Diana Hamann here, owner of The Wine Goddess. I'd like to clarify a few things that were taken out of context from my meeting with the liquor commission–or skewed altogether. 

    1.  I'm not at all asking for special favors that my competitors shouldn't be granted.  I think any wine retailer should be allowed to sell wine by the glass (without also having to be a restaurant as the Evanston laws currently mandate–a restaurant offering a full menu, with all the expensive restaurant equipment that the health code requires such as NSF refrigeraters, freezers, numerous hand sinks, triple compartment sinks, mop sinks…oh, and not one but TWO ADA bathrooms on the sales floor!).  

    The mayor was worried that bars would want to open in Evanston without also being a restaurant and looking to my store as legal precedent–I suggested (and I'm no legislator) that a percentage of floor space would need to be devoted to retail, solidifying the intent here: to be a retailer first and foremost (instead of a bar skirting the Evanston's full-menu law), with the allowance that wine retailers could offer customers the value-ad of enjoying a wine by the glass in the store.  I do not think I am asking for "special favors" from the city as some have written on this forum; I'm just asking for the same privilege that wine retailers are enjoying in Chicago, Wilmette, Madison, Berkeley, San Fran, Brooklyn, NYC, Cleveland Heights, and most towns in America.  And certainly ANY town in Europe. 

    2.  I resent the glib, baseless assertion that my store is over-priced, and therefore I'm "crying a river" that I saw a dip in sales in the first weeks of TJ's being open.  We don't carry 3 Buck Chuck (as TJ's owns that brand), but we have many wines that are $6.99, $7.99 and $8.99.  In fact, we have an entire racking system called "Twelve Wines Under $12 Bucks."  I take pride in seeking out affordable (and truly delicious) wines at all price points, but especially in the lower reaches.  Anyone that has actually shopped the store knows that I am more likely to point them in the direction of the bang-up values than wines in the higher price points.  Those are the wines I'm most proud of, frankly, because those are the wines that I can afford to drink myself.  

    3.  It's a bummer the headline was all about Trader Joe's, because frankly Trader Joe's was a very minor part of the conversation.  If the headline was "Wine Goddess Seeks to Sell Wine by the Glass" instead of a headline that may as well read "Wine Goddess Challenges TJ's to a Shootout at High Noon" it would have been much more on the mark.  

    It is true, however, that I am seeking to A) stay in business, B) stay in business in my hometown, and C) am thinking of creative ways to do so and engage the community in the process.  It's remarkable to me that this is seen as anything but a good thing.


    Diana Hamann

    Owner of The Wine Goddess, Evanston

    1. I appreciate this

      Ms. Hamann,

      I appreciate you inserting yourself into this viper pit of discussion.  I think most people in your situation would avoid this discussion board out of frustration.  It is very refreshing to have constructive information brought in from someone who is a subject of the discussion

      About 11 years ago people were piling on criticism of Intelligentsia Coffee in the net news discussion group  There was a significant amount of speculation and incorrect assumptions mixed in with a little bit of fact.  The founder/owner of Intelligentsia made a post and turned around the tone of the discussion.  not long afterwards the main participants of were huge advocates of Intelligentsia because of the owners participation. 

      I think you have helped your business by your participation here.

    2. Sensible and Smart

      Well said to those who would rather sensationalize…And that is why you are indeed a Goddess Diana…

      Best wishes and looking forward to shopping (hunting) your value rack!

      Respectfully, Brian G. Becharas

    3. Thank you Wine Goddess

      I have been in the Wine Goddess and even bought a few bottles. I found Diana tt be friendly, knowledgeable and offering some reasonably priced offerings. I, for one, hope she makes it and will happily do my part by drinking more of her wine.

    4. We’re big fans

      Thank you for your reply and clarification.  My husband is a big fan of your store (and I am a big fan of the interesting wines he brings home from your store). Best of luck to you!

    5. Diana,To be honest, I have


      To be honest, I have yet to shop in your store. I don't have a good reason other than I live off of Central Street and just don't tend to shop on Main Street. That said, I will now. Your well reasoned arguments and encouragement of the city to support home grown businesses by simply affording them (you) the "luxury" of being competitive have convinced me to drive your way and shop! Looking forward to meeting you, shopping and eventually having a glass or two in your shop. Brava!

    6. Good Luck!

      I'm not a wine drinker, but I appreciate that you opened a store in the Main Street shopping district.  I see this as a positive move on your part.  I hope that your request is granted.  Evanstonians cannot just hope that all of the great little shops will be on Central Street.  Let's make all of Evanston's main corridors great shopping districts.  I'll be in to get a bottle of wine…since I don't drink it, maybe I can cook with it.

      Good luck to the Wine Goddess

  15. Wine by the glass

    Wouldn't this just create more wine bars? Will they be required to serve food also? Do they have a kitchen?  If this is passed can I open a little wine by the glass shop in the vacant jewerly shop on Main? Won't this open the door for other stores including TJ's,Whole Foods, Jewel to serve wine by the glass?

  16. Different markets

    TJs and WFs are totally different markets from what Vinic and Wine Goddess are working in.  Furthermore, Vinic and Wine Goddess are locally owned businesses.  Seems like all that Vinic and WG want is an amendment to the ordinance so that they can serve wines by the glass to entice customers.  This is a tried and true marketing tactic used in wine shops across the world.  They are not asking for special tax breaks; they are just asking for a silly barrier to entry (within commerce) to be removed.

    Are they going to serve wines to customers until said customer would exceed the state BAC?  I hope not and I have every reasonable expectation that they would not.  That said, they would be subject to the same state dram shop law and would be liable for any bad incidents.

    I think so long as they have insurance to cover this extra liability, let them have it.

    Note, I shop as WFs and TJs but not wine, nor do I frequent Vinic or Wine Goddess.  That said, I will frequent the Wine Goddess more, because of this silly argument.  I hope the shop survives and thrives.


  17. Schaffers

    btw, how is Schaffer's doing all the way over there on Old Orchard blvd.  Or is that not Evanston.  There's also Tony's just about the next buidling over.  How are they doing?  This is like swatting at gnats and no see-ums.

  18. Move your store to the library

    Move your store to the first floor of the library. Rent space from the Library Board to help offset their perceived costs and be allowed to sell by the glass.

  19. Let competition take its course

    City Council seems to give away lots of money to businesses.  Why not give this one some money?  Then they can also grant more licenses to competing businesses to use empty buildings in the same block.

    Possibly a sensible way would be to let competition take its course.  That often  tells us about things nobody needs or wants.

  20. Wine Goddess

    As a local wine importer and distributor doing business with Whole Foods, Vinic and The Wine Goddess, I jump into this discussion at my peril, however I see no reason why Evanston should not support Diana's (and Sandeep's) initiative. It is preposterous to think that serving a glass or two, or even a carafe of artisan wine at a wine shop constitutes a danger to the community. 

    And I would encourage everyone not to take independent retailers such as Vinic and The Wine Goddess for granted.  As of last year, the three largest wine companies produced well over half of all of the wine consumed in the U.S., and the 30 largest produced over 90% of the bottles sold.  The effect of this on wine quality has been what one would expect as homogenization rules.  Only truly independent voices such as Diana and Sandeep will remind us why true farmer wine is unique and important: each bottle is a time capsule containing the agricultural reality of a growing season and the harvest in a unique vineyard, and each bottle also supports a simple farmer and her family. 

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