York City officials gave the green light Tuesday to plans for a downtown wine bar whose owners are taking advantage of an obscure part of the Pennsylvania liquor code to make their project financially viable.

The York City Council approved Vintage Wine Bar's request for an economic development liquor license -- the first time one has been approved in the city since legislation created the special license more than a decade ago.

Instead of paying market rate -- in the neighborhood of $175,000 -- for a standard liquor license, the bar's owners will pay between $25,000 and $50,000 for the special license.

Unlike standard liquor licenses, an economic development license is tied to the location. In other words, if the bar goes out of business, its owners won't have an asset to sell to someone else.

The reduced cost, however, also means the couple behind the Vintage Wine Bar can get their project off the ground.

"It's allowing us to have the concept without being out of pocket," said Toni Calderone, whose business partner is her husband, Tony Calderone.

Enforcement: Final approval of the Calderones' license is up to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, said Shilvosky Buffaloe, the city's deputy director of economic and community development.

State police in Pennsylvania's Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement will handle enforcement of regulations tied to the license.

Those regulations include, for example, a requirement that food and non-alcoholic beverages account for at least 70 percent of sales at the Vintage Wine Bar.


Calderone told the council she is confident the bar will meet that requirement because of an emphasis on food sales during lunch hours.

"We know that the food will offset the alcohol sales," she said.

Buffaloe said the wine bar's pursuit of an economic development liquor license has spurred interest among other potential entrepreneurs in the city. Many people just didn't know about it before, he said.

But the required ratio of food-to-alcohol sales means it's not a great fit for every project, Buffaloe added.

The Calderones are planning to open the Vintage Wine Bar inside a currently vacant building at 2 W. Market St. in the spring. They'll offer a unique self-serve system that will allow customers to pour themselves mini samplers or full glasses of 24 wines on tap.

The couple also plans a members-only cigar lounge.

Calderone pledged to serve customers responsibly in a "casually sophisticated atmosphere."

-- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.