WILKES-BARRE — Woodlands Inn and Resort’s CEO Gary Kornfeld is proud of his family’s hard work over 44 years, starting as a simple catering business in 1969 and expanding into the region’s top entertainment and hotel venue.
But times have changed in the past decade, Kornfeld said, with other entertainment facilities, hotels and the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino opening in the same market.
Without a liquor license, Kornfeld said, his family wouldn’t be in business.
“I’m here fighting for my life and my family’s lives and the 160 people who work there as well,” Kornfeld testified before Luzerne County Judge Richard Hughes on Wednesday at a hearing held at Genetti’s.
The Woodlands is appealing a decision by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board not to renewal its liquor license based on 10 violations of the liquor code dating back to 1987 and 47 alleged incidents and disturbances reported to Plains Township police.
Kornfeld said six of those 10 violations are 20 years old or older.
Although competition by other hotels and the casino has impacted business at the Woodlands, Kornfeld said, so has the LCB.
A conditional licensing agreement forced upon the Woodlands by the board in 2011 caused a 50-percent decline in business on Thursday nights when the resort hosts an under-21 party, Kornfeld said.
Kornfeld said the agreement called for separation of those people under 21 years old from patrons who are 21 and older. He said patrons 21 years and older were placed in the lower Executive Lounge while the younger crowd mingles in Club Evolution.
“Responsible drinking is important to us because we have an image to maintain,” Kornfeld said, noting the board threatened to revoke its liquor license if he did not sign the conditional licensing agreement.
Kornfeld said that at one time, the Woodlands was the largest purchaser of liquor in the state. Liquor sales to customers have declined over the years, but he said, “we need that (liquor) business to succeed.”
The Woodlands purchased $247,016 worth of liquor and wine from May 2012 to April from state liquor stores, according to LCB statistics.
Kornfeld said it is difficult to maintain a “food-and-beverage” business due to competition. He said the casino, located about one mile north on state Route 315 in Plains Township, provides free drinks to its patrons.
“They give their drinks away and we’re asking people to pay for their drinks,” Kornfeld said.
Hughes is expected to make a decision on the appeal later this year.
The Woodlands can continue to serve alcohol while the appeal proceeds.