Schenectady County Community College has sent food personnel to Mazzone Hospitality.
Now the Scotia-based catering and restaurant firm is returning the favor — and it’s a favor to the college’s culinary arts department.
The college recently learned it has been serving wine without a required license from the New York State Liquor Authority during dinners served at the Casola Dining Room.
Alcoholic beverages also have been poured illegally during banquets on the college premises. Mazzone employees will join the college culinary staff for upcoming banquets, and with catering permits secured by the company, staff the bars.
Most of the wine at SCCC has been sipped during dinner hours at the Casola in fall, winter and spring. Collegiate chefs and servers prepare meals at bargain prices. Until this fall, diners had been allowed to bring in their own bottles — and pay a $3 corkage fee to open their beverages.
According to the liquor authority, “bring your own bottle” practices in restaurants or taverns are not permitted in unlicensed businesses in New York state.
“You must have a license or permit to sell/serve beer, wine or liquor to the public,” says the authority website. “Venues without a license or permit may not allow patrons to ‘bring their own’ alcoholic beverages for consumption.”
“Our administration was just being proactive in looking into the need for the license,” said David E. Brough, dean of the school of hotel, culinary arts and tourism. “Legal counsel investigated and found that it was. As far as the department went, we were under the understanding that if we were selling alcohol we would need a license. If we were not selling alcohol, we would not need a license.”
SCCC to seek license
The college will now apply for a liquor license.
Brough said diners had been bringing in their own wine for decades. “I graduated in ’81 and we were doing banquets then,” he said. “We’ve been doing banquets for quite some time.”
On the SCCC website, culinarians have notified people — who book $16 lunch and $22 dinner dates weeks in advance — they will not be able to bring in their own bottles for afternoon and evening seatings.
Banquets already booked at the college will have alcoholic beverages on tables. Mazzone employees will work with proper catering permits and serve beer, wine and other drinks.
“Our staff will be handling all the liquor and making sure everything is done right and everything is TIPS-certified (Training for Intervention Procedures) in compliance with state Liquor Authority rules and regulations,” said Matt Mazzone, the company’s chief financial officer.
He said the TIPS course ensures restaurant personnel recognize signs such as intoxication, and how to handle people in such conditions. “We’re kind of utilizing our staff to kind of help the college through the transition period until their get their full license,” Mazzone added.
He said he knows of three or four upcoming SCCC functions that will be staffed by Mazzone personnel. The company will use a catering permit, which allows alcoholic beverages, a permit the college cannot possess. “You have to have a master license in order to file for a catering permit,” Mazzone said.
Mazzone added his company has a good relationship with Brough and the culinary program. Company owner Angelo Mazzone and Mark Delos, chief executive officer for culinary, both have degrees from the SCCC culinary program. “Most of the top rank here have a pretty close association with the university,” Mazzone said.
Brough hopes the college can quickly resume its “bring your own bottle” policy — within the law.
“We want to continue to do what we did before, for the purpose of allowing the students to learn the proper service of beverages,” he said. “That’s why we do it.”
Brough had only one surprise in the matter.
“I find it hard to believe that no one asked,” he said, referring to the past practice of BYOB. “I find it hard to believe that we didn’t investigate this before we started.”