More Beer, Wine Licenses Sought In Berlin

BERLIN — Between two new businesses and the expansion of an established café, Berlin wine lovers should have a lot to toast to this spring.

Last week, Sisters, an eclectic store that will include everything from housewares to jewelry, received a beer and wine license from the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners (BLC).

Owners Michael Anne Phillips and Dona Compher plan on offering wine and craft beer on location while people shop as well as for carryout.

This week, Deborah Everett came before the Berlin Mayor and Council to request support for another new business, The Maryland Wine Bar at Berlin.

Everett was joined by Robin Tomaselli and Shelly Eppard, the owners of the Baked Dessert Café, who sought the council’s endorsement for an expansion of their current business license to also include the sale of beer and wine.

“We’re just trying to add some products that make us different from other businesses in town,” said Tomaselli.

At first glance, all three operations may seem similar. However, each is seeking to carve out its own niche in Berlin without stepping on the toes of any new or old businesses.

The Maryland Wine Bar at Berlin will, as its name implies, serve only vintages from Maryland wineries, of which Everett reports there are over 50 and counting.

“It’s only Maryland wines,” she promised, adding that the establishment would be more of a tasting room than a bar and probably would not keep very late hours.

“There’s nothing like it in the state,” said Everett.

Tomaselli announced that, if they receive an extension of their license, Baked Dessert Café will focus primarily, though not exclusively, on organic and sustainable wines, a category Tomaselli is confident is not heavily covered in the area.

“We are definitely concentrating our wine selection on sustainable and organic,” she said, but noted that desserts will remain the café’s major business.

The craft beer and wine would also be framed as a compliment to the already strong baked goods businesses that the café is popular for, added Tomaselli.

The new Sisters business also plans on using craft beer and wine as an enhancement to their primary retail business. According to Phillips, they’re looking for a unique shopping experience, not a bar.

After presenting their requests for endorsement to the council, both Everett and Baked Dessert were quick to offer their own support to each other, despite being potential competitors.

“I’ve always kind of felt, ‘the more the merrier,’” said Tomaselli.

She pointed out that almost all businesses in town, even when they offer similar products, managed to cooperate and work with each other. Also, by building Berlin’s reputation as whole, Tomaselli believes that every business will benefit from increased visitors.

“I think that, what’s good for one of us is good for all of us,” she said.
Everett offered a similar outlook.

“I think this is good for all of us … I don’t think it’s going to hurt any of us,” she said.

Both the Wine Bar and Baked Dessert hope to participate in some of wine tours and tastings as well as the already established community events, such as the monthly arts stroll.

However, both will need to appear before the BLC on April 18 to secure a license. In an unanimous vote, the council agreed to draft letters of support for the Wine Bar and the café’s expanded offernigs.

“I’m personally very excited,” said Mayor Gee Williams, who said that businesses like the Wine Bar would “add a touch of class to the town.”