Owner of Holiday Beverages Speaks to Hospitality 404 Brew Pub and Operations Class

Posted on 2/19/2020 3:07:05 PM

Hospitality 404 Brew Pub and Operations is a class offered by the Department of Hospitality Management and is open to all IUP students who are 21 and older. The class studies the making of beer, the history of beer, beer and food pairings, and the trends of beer and the craft beer movement. Students enrolled in the class also participate in in-class beer tastings and visits to local breweries, and have the privilege of listening to guest speakers who work in the industry. 

John Cuccaro, owner of Holiday Beverage Inc. and Jefferey Santicola, department member

John Cuccaro, owner of Holiday Beverage Inc. and Jefferey Santicola, department member

As owner and operator of Holiday Beverage for the last 26 years, John Cuccaro has been witness to the changing trends of the beer and alcohol industry in the state of Pennsylvania over the years. He shared with the class how the craft beer movement has really changed the industry and the type of beverages he offers to his patrons.

“When I first opened Holiday Beverage, I would say 85 percent of my business was selling five different brands of beer. No one was interested in Pennsylvania brewed beer,” said Cuccaro. “This is in contrast to today, where so many people are interested and seeking out locally brewed beverages.” 

The state of Pennsylvania is a controlled state, meaning that the state regulates alcohol sales very closely. However, the past six years have brought significant changes in the laws with the addition of Act 166 and Act 39. Both these changes were brought to add customer convenience to Pennsylvania shoppers. Act 39 added a new license under the title of an “eatery,” meaning that convenience stores could start selling malt beverages, beer, and wine as long as there is seating for 30 patrons.

Act 166, signed in 2016, changed 16 sections of the Pennsylvania Liquor Code and added a new section. For distributors like Holiday Beverage, this meant that they could sell malt beverages in any configuration as long as they could be resealed. 

“The changes in legislation has meant that we have had to find creative ways to sell our beverages now that there are so many places where people can buy beer,” shared Cuccaro with the students. “We have started to sell slushies in our store, which are considered malt beverages. We have fill stations where people can come fill their growlers and crowlers (32-ounce cans) with the craft beer we have on tap. We also put on an event called ‘Bites and Brews’ where we have a beer tasting with little bites of food pairings. For example, today we have an imperial stout paired with chocolates from Dan Smith’s Candies in town. We have also started partnering with other businesses in town—in the beginning of March we’re partnering with C.H. Fields Craft Kitchen to do a dinner with beer pairings.”

Cuccaro also said that these changes have meant a change in the dynamic of how his business is run. “When I first opened, it was mostly inventory control. I would get products in, I would get them out; however, that has changed. I used to only carry about 500 packages, meaning I only had 500 ways and types in which I sold beverages, and about 85 percent of my business was supported by 15 packages. Now, I carry about 1,300 packages.”

When asked if he found the recent changes frustrating, Cuccaro replied that he has worked harder in the last six years than in the first 20, and that it’s not so much frustrating as it is challenging. “It has changed my business from just getting the customer in to getting them to come in, shop, try new things, and spend their money that way. The business feels more retail than it did in the past and has made me be more innovative in the ways in which I sell my products.” 

The Department of Hospitality Management and Brew Pub and Operations class would like to thank John Cuccaro for taking the time to come and speak in class. 

The Department of Hospitality Management is the premier hotel, restaurant, tourism, and special event undergraduate program in the region and the largest program in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The Department of Hospitality Management is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA).