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Call it the War of the Rosé! Red Hook wine shops battle it out

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It’s all-out wine war in Red Hook!

In a neighborhood once known only for bulletproof liquor stores, a just-opened upscale wine and spirits shop is attempting to sabotage the opening of a second high-end shop only two blocks away.

Jealousy is partly to blame in this Van Brunt Street showdown — the Discovery Channel’s “Construction Intervention” helped turn the still-unopened shop, Botta di Vino, into a world-class store in only four days last year, completely for free.

That left the owners of Dry Dock, who renovated their own store at the corner of Van Dyke Street last year, resentful.

“I had to cash out my 401K to start this business,” said Mary Kyle, one of the owners of Dry Dock. “We didn’t have a TV network come in and build a business.”

Yes, the owners of Botta di Vino find themselves in that enviable position — but they still lack the most important thing: a permit from the State Liquor Authority. And Kyle and her husband are contesting it on the grounds that Botta di Vino, which is between Wolcott and Dikeman streets, is too near to their location.

Plus, Botta di Vino would not only join Dry Dock, but the unnamed “bulletproof” liquor store on the corner of Sullivan Street.

“When I stand in the front of my store, I can see the other stores!” Ron Kyle testified before the liquor authority last Wednesday. “I could not find three stores in such a cluster (in nearby neighborhoods).”

But the Kyles’ argument is not strictly about keeping the neighborhood safe from a third wine store.

“We’ve invested $200,000 in a store that just opened,” he argued. “It will take at least two years before we see any return on that investment. … If Botta Di Vino were a dentist, or a doctor, or a hardware store, or a dry cleaner, that would make more sense.”

Triciann and Jeff Botta say that they aren’t a direct competitor to Dry Dock, as they plan to sell only wines from small wineries.

Their store has a legitimate shot at being the fanciest wine vendor in the whole city. The space features a fireplace, a courtyard, an impressive wine bottle design that runs along a stairway, and a section of glass floor that looks down into the basement, which holds several wine barrels.

“We don’t want to disparage theirs or our rep,” said Triciann Botta. “From our end, we would rather have our business promoted in a positive light.”

So far, there has not been any vintner-on-vintner violence — but the two owners differ drastically on their view of Red Hook, and therein lies another part of the problem. The Kyles have lived in the area for many years and, as such, feel that they know their audience better than the newcomers, the Bottas.

“They have a different opinion about the specialty market for wine in this neighborhood,” said Ron Kyle. “I believe it is very small.”

He added that recent studies have shown that the classic signs of the “boom” in Red Hook — the Ikea and the Fairway — actually have yielded more car traffic than profits for nearby small businesses.

The Bottas, on the other hand, see Red Hook as a neighborhood on the rise — despite the economic downturn that put an end to the over-the-top $1-million apartment deals and also resulted in the nickname, “Dead Hook.”

“We think there is a lot of potential for the neighborhood,” said Triciann. “Every summer, there are more moving trucks — it improves by leaps and bounds.”

The Bottas say they signed their lease only a week or two from the time that the Kyles got the state go-ahead to sell spirits — meaning that they unknowingly popped the cork on the wine war.

The Kyles insist that their would-be competitors were well aware of their store opening down the street.

Either way, both were keenly aware of opportunity presented by the closing of LeNell’s, the beloved liquor store whose owner left for Mexico in 2009.

Throughout the showdown, the “bulletproof” store has maintained the dispassionate detachment of a neighborhood elder statesman who has seen it all.

“Supposedly, [liquor stores] shouldn’t be so close together,” said Carmen Garcia, who has worked at the shop for 40 years. “But everyone has a right to own their [sic] own business. But we’re not worried — we’re like an institution here.”fic than fic than

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Reader Feedback

s from red hook says:
jeff and tricann HAVE been involved in the neighborhood for years. ultimately I'm going to buy my wine in the place where I feel most comfortable. the kyles should think about the negativity surrounding all this "competition" hype. it's bad business.
Feb. 22, 2010, 7:56 am
Beaujolais from France says:
Aren't there enough winos in Red Hook to keep all three joints jumping? Might not clustering create a destination to the benefit of all three? Also, what's up with the notion of "mom and pop" businesses being "community resources" as if they are non profits?
Feb. 22, 2010, 10:02 am
Tory from Red Hook says:
Mary Kyle is the biggest douche bag ever!! The Kyle family has not lived in RH for years and years. They moved to the neighborhood in 2003 and then faked address in Cobble Hill so their kids could attend PS 29. Hardly good civic types!

Moreover, that Mary woman has her 14 year-old daughter working illegal in liquor store. I don't even drink, but I'm shopping at Botta di Vino
Feb. 22, 2010, 1:32 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
To Mary: Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you and your husband.
Feb. 22, 2010, 2:18 pm
Adam from Red Hook says:
While I'm glad to have more wine-buying options in my immediate neighborhood, I think I'll judge them on the tried and true metrics of selection, price, and service. And, hey, if both Drydock and Botta turn out to suck, there are always Smith & Vine, Scotto's, Heights Chateau, Old Brooklyn Wine and Liquor, and more, each a scant five or ten minutes away.
Feb. 22, 2010, 3:38 pm
John from Prospect Heights says:
"Unnamed" liquor store? If it's a liquor store, it has a state license, and on the license is a NAME. The store has a name. Oh, and it also has an owner, and the owner has a NAME.

As for LeNell's, if she was so "beloved" she wouldn't have closed shop when her lease ran out -- SHE could have opened a new store instead of these bozos.
Feb. 22, 2010, 9:53 pm
Al from Park Slope says:
Im pretty sure the state law requires liquor/wine shops to have a distance of 500 feet distance between them and another licensee.

On another note, I wonder if the free build out constitutes a "gift" in the eyes of the IRS or if that is considered some type of income derived and thus the free store must pay capital gains taxes on the "free" constuction. Nothing is free to the IRS. For exapmle, if you won a new car from a TV show, you must pat capital gains tax on the car which is why when most people win something of value on a game show, they usually have to sell the item just to cover the tax on the winnings.
Feb. 23, 2010, 8:36 am
N from Red Hook says:
They'll both be closed in a year. There was a reason LeNell's never reopened in Red Hook. It's called not enough foot traffic for the rent landlords are trying to collect.

Plus, when Fairway starts selling wine, Botta will be outta business. When are people going to learn that you can't open a business in Red Hook if you don't become part of the neighborhood.
Feb. 23, 2010, 12:31 pm
S from RH says:
This is high-larious. Wine wars. I kinda love it. Fairway selling wine? Also high-larious. Will there be a Fairway label? If so, I hope they are better than Fairway brand olive oils. Sorry, wasn't impressed. Quality, service, knowledge of staff, and selection will win out. Sorry ladies and germs, for me, NOTHING beats Smith and Vine.
Feb. 23, 2010, 4:47 pm
Abbot from Red Hook says:
There are moving trucks in Red Hook because there are something like 5 moving companies in a similar proximity to the aforementioned liquor retailers and dozens more within 2 miles, if you're looking to talk about over saturation. The bubble has burst.
Feb. 24, 2010, 12:34 pm
RHwino from Red Hook says:
For those of us in RH without a car both wine stores are very welcome. I have been buying wine from Dry Dock since they opened and have had very good experiences with their wine suggestions. If Botta impresses with its selections then I will shop there too. It is sad that DD is trying to block Botta's license but it is understandable given that they believe their investment is at risk. I seriously doubt "jealousy" has anything to do with it!

And for the record I am really sick of the Brooklyn Paper calling LeNell's "beloved" The wine sucked and the service was either condescending, surly, silly or weird. No love lost with that departure.
Feb. 24, 2010, 5:03 pm
J from Red Hook says:
I would much rather buy my wine at Dry Dock because they HAVE been in the neighborhood since 2003, 7 years is a long time. They know what the nenighborhood needs from living here for so long. The Bottas are hipsters from Park Slope who know nothing baout Red Hook. THERE IS NO RIVALRY BECAUSE THERE IS NO COMPETTION! Botta De Vino has not opened up yet so how is there a rivlary?
Feb. 25, 2010, 1:43 pm
J from Red Hook says:
*when i said 7 years, i meant Ron and Mary have been here for that long not DryDock
Feb. 25, 2010, 1:51 pm
j from red hook says:
never stepping foot in dry dock i agree with tory, mary is a douch, she calls 311 on everybody eps. hope & anchor which was here before them. yes they have kareoke on certain nites but she knew it was a bar restaurant before they bought their million dollar building and she got a business that has been it the neighborhood for over 15yrs shut down. they suck!
Feb. 25, 2010, 2:10 pm
JonB from South Brookyn says:
As a long-time RH resident, (I'm a Visitation Alumni, that's how old I am) I find all this "recent transplant" versus "newcomer stuff" annoying. Neither have a lot of neighborhood cred, but as entrepreneurs, I don't expect them to. None of the newbie businesses on Van Brunt Street are owned by native South Brooklynites and that's okay. I say, let Botta De Vino get their license and let the market rule.
Feb. 25, 2010, 2:35 pm
Tory from Red Hook says:
j from red hook,

The guys from H & A should report DD for having their underage kids sell booze.

Payback's a ——!
Feb. 25, 2010, 2:47 pm
legomojo from Astoria says:
Just for the record, Botta Di Vino did not receive that renovation last year. It was only about 3 weeks ago.
Feb. 25, 2010, 2:54 pm
Bob from Red Hook says:
This woman Mary is a nasty piece of Work.Lived close to her for a few years and has only spoke to me since dry dock opened.Fake people they don't care about Red Hook.
Feb. 25, 2010, 5:09 pm
Adam from Red Hook says:
Honestly, all you need to know about Red Hook is that people are touchy and like to drink. Personally, there's no place I'd rather live.

I finally visited Drydock today. I dealt with Ron, whom I take to be Mary's husband. His 14ish daughter was working for him, in a familial way, answering the phone, and absorbing his corrections. If the California Sangiovese he touted is to be an example, his taste in wine tends towards the boozy and oaky. This, despite my having told him that my taste is the opposite. The case discount, at 10%, is 5% less than Smith and Vine's, with a considerably more limited selection. (That 5% would save me $40 on a typical case.) I'm told they have a lot of bourbon -- which is nice -- but these are not wine people. I do not envision the two stores competing on anything substantive.
Feb. 25, 2010, 8:16 pm
Dead Hooker from Dead Hook says:
I've live in Red Hook for about six years now and can't wait to get out. The people are so insular and petty. They wear Red Hook like a badge of honor and if you don't drink at one of it's two bars every night than you are considered an outsider. It's silly that the owners of Botta are portrayed as outsiders. So what if they are outsiders? It's a new business on a street that has an abundance of empty store fronts, and I may be wrong but I would call a main st. full of boarded up windows and unopened parentally-funded sausage restaurants a bad thing.
Feb. 26, 2010, 4:03 pm
anonymous from red hook says:
Got an enthusiastically endorsed bottle of wine from the new place that wasn't as good as it was made out to be. Agreed that the market for specialty wine might be small in this particular neighborhood, but I'd certainly appreciate a place that knows their stuff. And the argument that you have to be "from the neighborhood" is annoying. Really, how many people from the "back side" are really from the neighborhood? More businesses and liveliness in Red Hook will make it a better place to live, and I don't care if you're "from the neighborhood" or not if you're willing to make an investment here (and put up with the "from the neighborhood" nonsense that abounds)
Feb. 26, 2010, 6:26 pm
jack from the hook says:
if the adults act this stupid about a couple of hooch stores i cant wait to see the reaction and mud slinging when Uncle louy G rolls into town and the kidz start smackin each other over ice cream!! let the games begin!!
Feb. 26, 2010, 9:05 pm
ed from cobble hill says:
Finally checked out Dry Dock and really think the store is great. For a neighborhood store their prices are good & they are open late (11pm last night). So nice to find a neighborhood place that doesn't gouge your wallet. They were all really friendly and sold me a fantastic bottle of tequilla that was only 20 bucks. They rock.
Feb. 27, 2010, 9:25 am
AM from Red Hook says:
Forget a wine store! What Red Hook really needs a colonicist cause clearly some folks could stand an good enema.
Feb. 27, 2010, 11:15 am
butthead from red hook says:
he-he-he.....enema...he-he-he
Feb. 27, 2010, 5:32 pm
MAD BUB from Red Hook says:
i have one thing to say...Dry Dock is CLEARLY the best one. And one for thing, its a one sided story. The Botta side is the one displayed here! WHERE ARE THE KYLES? WHAT ARE THEIR VIEW?
March 5, 2010, 4:17 pm
l'asperge from Cobble Hill says:
Ron Kyle is a bit of a wanker. He admittedly knows nothing about wine.. he is a marketing man and a perhaps a pretty slick business man. The LAST think this neighborhood needs is fraud like him trying to 'fill a niche'. This neighborhood is REAL, and needs people like LeNell who did a great job. Although her wine selection wasn't amazing, she fit perfectly and made people happy.

His underhanded ploy to block 'competition' is HILARIOUS. Poor guy though he could have a monopoly... sorry dude. And to call 'bulletproof' liquors competition is very manipulative, because, with all do respect, their stock in trade is pints of vodka and Yellowtail. Are the set of folk that dine at Good Fork and Fort Defiance (both great great NEIGHBORHOODLY places) really shopping at this place? No Ron, they are not.

Go Botta! I look forward to some day having an enlightening conversation about wine and going home with lovely bottle of something selected by someone PASSIONATE....
March 6, 2010, 4:17 pm
M from Red Hook says:
LeNell was pushed out by her landlord, for no good reason, is my understanding, and tried for a long time to find another space in Red Hook before giving up in disgust. The reason there are so many empty storefronts is the delusion of landlords who think they can ask for Smith St. rents, and refuse to give long-term leases at realistic, current prices. Dead Hook!

Obviously there will not be room for two fancy wine stores in a neighborhood in which the vast majority of residents live in the projects. Those of you who like to ride your bikes down here on sunny Saturdays and see the sidewalks full of fellow hipsters/yuppies sipping $3 coffees should see the place on a drizzly Tuesday morning...or almost any other time. Close to zero sidewalk traffic.

Botta got a big leg up, but that's just life. What were they going to do -- turn down a free renovation? Then again, if Dry Dock can find a way to keep them out, and protect their $200k investment, why wouldn't they? No reason for anyone else to get bent out of shape, or choose sides.
March 6, 2010, 5:29 pm
L from Red Hook says:
L'asperge,
The "bulletproof store" is called Al's. The only thing "REAL" about Red Hook is the REAL stupidity of it's inhabitants. M has it right, it's business. Calling Ron Kyle a fraud is in itself a joke. If "REAL" had anything to do with it than neither wine store would be there, or Good Fork and Fort Defiance for that matter because they don't cater to the "REAL" Red Hook residents-The public housing residents that make up 80% of Red Hooks population. Not the 10% of Williamsburg wanna-bes that claim to be "REAL". L'asperge- You are a joke.
March 9, 2010, 1:40 pm
Tory from red hook says:
now that its all been said and done, the things I said about Mary Kyle was misinformation. I had been told lies by other people in the hood who have something against the family. My apologies to Mary and her family for all the —— that was brought down on them for what I said. I have a family too and would hate to hear such things said about my child. I'm very sorry for the hurtful things I said.
March 19, 2010, 9 pm
M from Red hook says:
I live in the hook for more than 20 years and Mary kyle and Ron kyle are not good people. They are sneaky people, and they always complaining about everything and everyone.if they only live their lives and let everyone else be and mined their business people would respect the family..people please their children alone.they have no fault of what kind their parent are
April 25, 2011, 9:59 pm
M from Red hook says:
Botta di vino is the best their prizes is great service awesome is a pleasant place to vist
April 25, 2011, 10:01 pm

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