The endearing Brooklyn scenester and Restaurant Lady has an important call to action for us regarding a governmental proposal this weekend that can further endanger the business of nightlife.
Thotyssey: Hello Anna-Lisa! Thanks for chatting today… how is your Summer Without Bars & Restaurants treating you so far?
Anna-Lisa Campos: Hi, Jim! I’ve realized that this is the first summer that I’m not working in any sort of bar or restaurant in over twenty years, which is definitely strange and sad. I’ve been missing my gig at the Metro BBQ extra hard in particular, and am so looking forward to seeing everyone we can do so safely! I’ve been keeping busy doing some remote daily volunteer work with Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, as well as a new project I’m very excited about called Open Wine Forum which is working to provide tuition-free education, expert access, work experience and career mentorship for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folx in the wine industry. How have you been?
I’m… existing! Keeping myself busy, but not as busy as you! I’ve been trying to visit some of these venues in their current limited incarnations with to-go drinks and pop-up outdoor service and patio drag shows. Sometimes the experiences are fun, other times it’s a carry… especially when the weather factors in! Have you been visiting any of these spaces?
I live around the corner from the Exley and have gotten some takeout cocktails from them a couple of times, but haven’t had any bar patio moments or been able to catch any summer shows in person just yet. I try to get to the nightly vigil in McCarren Park when I can, and with Merrie Cherry on the mic in June it was nice to see some familiar faces from nightlife and the neighborhood there.
Though unemployed now, I have lots of wine in my apartment from my years in the trade, and have slowly started seeing people in socially distant settings, though admittedly I haven’t been much of a drinker in general since things initially shut down in March.
Speaking of wine, there’s something very specific that you wanted to discuss today. Tell us about the proposed tariff on wine and spirits. Firstly, what is this tariff, exactly?
Yes! It’s a bit of a journey, so stick with me. But long story short, a decades-long dispute over European subsidies to Airbus is about to potentially raise prices by possibly 100% on imported wine and spirits from Europe, which would be devastating to our bar and restaurant industry that is already suffering here in New York. What a lot of people don’t realize is that tariffs are paid by the importer, not the country of origin – so American businesses are shouldering the cost of these tariffs, not foreign governments, and in order to stay afloat they need to in turn raise their prices, which ultimately trickles down to higher costs for bars, restaurants and retailers – and ultimately consumers.
The full story isn’t fully separate from other nationalistic leanings of our current administration. Trump has been committed to what is essentially a tariff war with the EU over said subsidies to Airbus, which were ultimately determined to be illegal by the World Trade Organization because they put the American aerospace industry at a disadvantage. As such, the U.S. can place retaliatory tariffs on “certain European Union goods,” including the wine, spirits, cheese, olive oil, and all sorts of agricultural products. In fall of last year, the U.S. imposed a 25% tariff on imports of wines from France, Germany and Spain (under 14% alcohol), as well as things like single malt Scotch and Irish whiskey, and liqueurs and cordials from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
However, in January of this year, we narrowly evaded the Trump administration threatening to increase the existing tariffs to up to 100%, and expanding the tariffed items to include all Scotch, Irish whiskey, other European whisk(e)ys, grape brandy, vodka and gin from the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Spain. But these proposed tariffs remain up for review every 180 days, and once again this administration is willing to add operating costs to small businesses and consumers in what could be a devastating blow to a nightlife industry that relies on sales of alcohol to stay in business, and at a time where millions of Americans are insecure about discretionary income due to lack of work.
Tell us about what we need to be aware of, or do, on July 26!
They are required to present the proposal to the public for comments, and the United States Trade Representative portal for receiving comments closes on July 26. Leave a comment, and talk about how these tariffs will threaten the survival of the hospitality and nightlife industries that are already struggling to stay afloat. Stress that these tariffs will ultimately place a burden on American businesses and consumers, and not the aerospace industry – especially in our current health and economic crisis. If you work in the industry, tell your story! Tell your family, tell your friends. Go to the portal where you can easily connect directly with your local representatives and the USTR to register their opposition. It’s critical that they realize that these tariffs ultimately harm industries that have not seen any substantive signs of bail out or relief from our government, and are already struggling to survive.
Thank you for the information, Anna-Lisa! Quick everyone, go to the USTR portal and say NO to to the new wine and spirits tariff… our city nightlife can’t survive with the added expenses!
Previously: Anna-Lisa Campos (1.9.2020)