Business

NYC hotspot turns into literal hole in the wall with ‘wine window’ to tap booze-to-go demand

A popular New York City restaurant is turning into a literal hole in the wall – serving Merlots, Syrahs and other vintages through a booze-to-go “wine window,” Side Dish has learned.

Please Tell Me owners Eric Griego and Austin Woolridge have dusted off the centuries-old wine window concept as a way to increase revenue – especially when private events shut down the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, bar.

The 500 square-foot restaurant at 749 Metropolitan Ave. has 28 seats inside, and 16 seats outside. Last month, it was named one of the 10 “most fun bars in NYC” by The Infatuation.

Their new wine window will be open on weekends from brunch through dinner starting April 10. Arielle Shannon

“We were talking about the window, and we wanted to do something kitsch, like having a DJ, but our chef was adamant that we should be known in the neighborhood for our charming outdoor space — and the wine window,” Griego told Side Dish.

Griego and Wooldridge, the CEO and co-founder of Players’ Lounge, first met at a startup accelerator, Y Combinator, in 2017, before opening the restaurant last fall.

Both are also part-time DJs, and their love of music is apparent at the lounge, which is inspired by Japanese listening rooms.

The bar holds “winyl Wednesdays” — a combination of wine and vinyl, where they introduce lesser-known blends like Japanese Syrahs and Merlots from Mexico.

Their new wine window will be open on weekends from brunch through dinner starting April 10.

Prices will range from $9 a glass for house wines to between $10 and $15 for organic wines.

Eric Griego (right) and Austin Woolridge (left), the co-owners of Please Tell Me, are both part-time DJs. Please Tell Me

To avoid breaking the city’s open-carry laws, the bar will serve wines, along with beer, in sealed cups.

“There are these kinds of kookie sealable containers that look like wine glasses,” said Griego, the CEO and co-founder of Betterfin — a platform that supports small business owners with financing.

Patrons who order a vino-to-go from the window will also be required, by state law, to order small but substantial bites, which will include charcuterie-style sandwiches.

The restaurant’s famed craft cocktails will not be available for takeout orders.

Prices will range from $9 a glass for house wines to between $10 and $15 for organic wines. Arielle Shannon

“We want the window to have a fairly quick turnaround. We aren’t a mixology bar, but our cocktails are still pretty involved,” Griego said.

Wine windows, or buchette del vino, were borne out of necessity in the 1600s when Florence was ravaged by the plague – and replicated during the COVID pandemic by New York State, which approved a drinks-to-go law to help restaurants stay afloat.

But it wasn’t until 2015 that three Florentines launched the Associazione Buchette del Vino. About 150 exist inside Florence’s old city, while another 100 or so have been found throughout Tuscany, according to reports.

“In Florence, the wine windows are very small, only big enough to pass a hand and a glass of wine through,” Griego said.

The bar holds “winyl Wednesdays” — a combination of wine and vinyl. Eva Woolridge
The state’s drinks-to-go program was extended until 2025 after being abruptly shut down in 2021. Eva Woolridge

“It was kind of like quarantine before quarantine, and we are kind of paying homage to that.”

However, the restaurant may not be able to keep its wine window open for long.

The state’s drinks to-go program expires next April, though food and wine industry lobbyists are pushing to keep it permanent.

The policy was abruptly shut down in 2021 but reinstated the following year after an outcry from the powerful Hospitality Alliance and restaurant owners.

“Drinks to-go was critically important during the pandemic and it’s been great for consumers and important for restaurants alike ever since, so making this popular policy permanent makes sense, and is something we can all cheer to,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance.