[UPDATED] Wine Riot Retail Shop Headed for the South End, Despite Mayoral Opposition

There was strong public support for the tech-driven venture.
Wine Riot

The proposed Wine Riot retail store in a rendering. / Image provided

UPDATE, Thursday, January 14, 12:30 p.m.: The Boston Licensing Board granted Wine Riot a package store license for the 519 Tremont St. shop. “The Mayor’s office respects the board’s vote and look[s] forward to working with the company as they open their new business in Boston,” a rep says.

PREVIOUSLY:

A technology-driven wineshop wants to open on Tremont Street in the South End—unless Mayor Marty Walsh’s office has anything to do with it. Representatives of the office opposed the planned Wine Riot retail store at the end of a licensing board hearing yesterday, company founder and president Tyler Balliet says.

“The hearing actually went really well,” he says. “[The city] gave us a lot of time and heard our entire story and concept,” Balliet says. 

It’s a venture Mayor Marty Walsh supports, a representative of his office says, but not the space itself. “Because of the close proximity to other specialty wine shops, we are encouraging the company to find an alternate location in the neighborhood,” the rep told Boston.

Balliet and his partners aren’t proposing an everyday package store, he says. He founded the umbrella company, Second Glass, with partner Morgan First nearly a decade ago, which aims to get people to drink more wine: It develops online and mobile tools for consumers and wine producers, creates editorial content, and hosts the annual, interactive Wine Riot event, which started in Boston but has expanded into six U.S. cities since 2008. (They plan to rebrand everything as Wine Riot in the future, Balliet notes.)

Using the company’s mobile apps and in-store technology stations, Wine Riot shoppers would be able to keep track of wines they enjoy and have purchased, and also access Wine Riot’s podcasts, videos, and other digital content. The space would be decked out in maps, charts, and infographics to help customers make informed choices, as outlined on its website.

Wine Riot will carry a large selection of wine, beer, and spirits Balliet says aren’t currently available in the South End, though specialty shop Georgiana’s is right across the street, and the Wine Emporium is a couple blocks away. The proposed store won’t carry nips, lottery tickets, cigarettes, or single-serving beer cans.

Balliet and his partners have a lease in hand; a requirement to apply for licensing. He’s been working on the wineshop proposal for 18 months, including hosting three neighborhood meetings, and securing the support of local City Councilor Bill Linehan, as well as Tito Jackson, who does not represent the shop’s proposed location, Balliet says.

We gathered 461 signatures in the neighborhood, and [during the hearing,] 22 neighbors from the South End made very passionate arguments about why they wanted it,” he says.

The Licensing Board decides whether to grant Wine Riot a package store license at 10 a.m. (See update, above.)

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the incredible support of the community here in Boston,” Balliet says. “I’m really hopeful for the opportunity to open a business in this neighborhood in Boston.”

secondglass.com.


Jacqueline Cain Associate Food Editor at Boston Magazine jcain@bostonmagazine.com