November 16, 2018

Grocery to Sell Beer, Wine and Liquor by the Glass

Fridge & Pantry will soon be able to serve beer, wine and hard liquor until 1 a.m., even though the owner says he doesn’t want to stay open past 10 p.m.

According to Cody Costanzo, one of the owners and principal spokesperson for the venture, the grocery store/sandwich shop/smoothie bar plans to use the licenses to serve alcohol in combination with a menu of tapas—small food portions that are sometimes served at bars. The store also plans to host food tastings with alcohol, as well as to fill growlers.

The store at 35 E. Church Street opened in January. Divided into one side with groceries and the smoothie bar and one side with a sandwich shop, Fridge & Pantry has seen success with the sandwich shop, and has taken out shelves on the grocery side to add tables and 30 chairs.

Costanzo said at an Oct. 16 city council meeting that the store plans to build a new smoothie bar in the front during between Miami's fall and spring semesters. He said the old smoothie bar, located in the back of the grocery side, will be used to serve alcohol.

Costanzo said he doesn’t believe the store will start serving alcohol until the start of Miami’s spring semester, which begins Jan. 28. He also said the store might only serve alcohol with tapas on Fridays and Saturdays initially.

Fridge & Pantry owner Cody Costanzo said he still wants the establishment to be more about food than drinks. Photo by Ryan McSheffrey

Costanzo maintains that Fridge & Pantry does not want to become a late-night bar, and points to the amount of money and work that was poured into making the store—its interior marked by old, darkened wooden beams and planks—so nice.

“Definitely no plans of any loud music or bar,” Costanzo said during that meeting. “Definitely just … to complement [a customer’s] meal with a drink.

“We have a very nice space. [A college bar’s] not anything we’d want ... there could be a lot of damage involved in that.”

Yet Costanzo had said in an interview with the Observer on Oct. 3 that the store owners had not discussed applying for a license to serve hard liquor or allowing customers to consume beer and wine on the premises except for limited wine and beer tastings.

William and Mark Weisman, who are among the owners of Brick Street Bar, also are among the ownership group of Fridge & Pantry.

During the council meeting, Mayor Kate Rousmaniere expressed disappointment that the establishment was getting a hard liquor permit.

“I was disappointed, honestly. I think it's great to have a grocery store uptown," Rousmaniere said. “I'm sorry … that the only way you can have a good business is to serve hard liquor.

“I hope that you keep to your commitment that you keep it a restaurant that many types of people can congregate, because we do need that kind of place,” she said to Costanzo at the meeting.

Rousmaniere said in an interview on Thursday that she is not concerned with Fridge & Pantry in particular, but rather with alcohol in general in Oxford.

“I believe we have a liquor problem, so I'm always wary about having more liquor around,” Rousmaniere said.

“I believed [Costanzo] when he said he wasn't going to turn it into a bar.”

Costanzo also said that the store does not have plans to keep bar hours. Its alcohol licenses permit sales until 1 a.m.

“We are only open till 10 p.m. We don't have any plans to stay open,” Costanzo said. “I think it allows ’til 1 a.m. I don't want to be there that late and I don't think anyone else wants to either. So, no future plans to stay open really late.”

Costanzo said the store plans to build a smoothie bar towards the front of the store during Miami's winter term, because the current smoothie bar, in the back, can only fit two or three people behind it. The current smoothie bar will be converted to a place where customers can purchase alcoholic beverages and fill beer growlers.

The smoothie bar in the back of Fridge & Pantry will be moved to the front of the store over winter break, to be replaced by an alcohol bar in the rear. Photo by Ryan McSheffrey

During the city council meeting, Rousmaniere reminded attendees that Fridge & Pantry obtained their licenses to serve by applying for open ones allotted by the Ohio Department of Commerce's Division of Liquor Control, and that council was informed of the licenses, but does not have the authority to approve or deny them.

Council then unanimously approved a resolution to acknowledge without comment that they'd received word of Fridge & Pantry receiving their license to serve hard liquor.