Surcharge collection pushes some local wineries out of Taste of Syracuse

Each summer, the Taste of Syracuse festival puts food from hundreds of Central New York restaurants up for display and purchase. However, some local wineries won't be there.

The City of Syracuse charges a hefty 12.5% beverage surcharge on alcohol at Clinton Square festivals. Instead of chasing down each winery to pay up, the city contracts out with a major vendor, who deals mostly with bigger wineries.

Taste of Syracuse organizer Pam Levine says "There are going to be New York wines there, also a lot of people said they would like to see wine from other places. There's going to be New York wines there, California wines, Australian wines. It was really about economizing our time and streamlining."

The Lakeland Winery has been at Taste of Syracuse for three of the last four years, but not this time around.

"It's a great event for me, it draws a lot of people," Andy Watkins says, "We make a lot of money, sell a lot of wine, and I'd be happy to pay a 12.5% charge."

When the surcharge was passed in 2007, the city said it was a way to help cover the costs of hosting festivals at Clinton Square.