Sherry-Lehmann has been scrambling to keep the lights on — literally – as the iconic New York City wine shop fends off lawsuits from angry clients and struggles to pay down a massive tax bill, The Post has learned.
The swanky store at 550 Park Avenue got a Feb. 27 visit from reps of Con Edison, who gave staff a “thirty minute warning” to gather their personal belongings before the power was shut off over unpaid bills, according to a source close to the situation.
Shyda Gilmer — the shop’s chief executive and co-owner, who sources claim has used the shop like his personal booze stash even as its finances have deteriorated — eventually coughed up enough cash to keep the lights on, according to insiders.
“Shyda was not answering calls,” a source told The Post. “Finally at the last minute he spoke with the guy and paid off online a little more than half of the balance to keep us in the light.”
It was the latest dramatic scene inside the upscale store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, which in recent months has weathered angry complaints from customers demanding either cash or immediate delivery of pricey wines they paid for weeks, months, or even years ago.
Staff, meanwhile, hasn’t been paid since the showdown with ConEd, sources close to the situation said.
Last Wednesday, the 88-year-old retailer — which has boasted clients over the decades including Greta Garbo and Andy Warhol — dropped from being New York state’s ninth-largest tax deadbeat to the 13th thanks to a recent payment of $506,627, public records at the New York Department of Taxation and Finance show.
Nevertheless, the wine store still owes a staggering $2,766,431 in back taxes, according to the agency.
A spokesperson for the store told The Post: “Sherry-Lehmann has been in constant contact with the State tax agency and has been paying the balance down since last March, and the company is working diligently to get to zero balance.”
As a co-owner of Sherry-Lehmann, Gilmer is likely giving priority to the tax man because he’s personally liable for the company’s taxes — whether the company files bankruptcy or not, experts say.
State tax authorities hold the power to shut down a business and sell off its assets over unpaid arrears, a spokesperson for the state agency told The Post.
“Not paying sales tax is viewed legally as walking into Fort Knox and taking money,” said Fred Stevens, a bankruptcy attorney at Klestadt Winters Jureller Southard & Stevens.
Sherry-Lehmann’s tax payments aren’t helping customers who claim they were stiffed. Those include Raymond Fong and Pak Chung, who are suing over $800,000 worth of rare, pricey Bordeaux — cases of Chateau Margaux, Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Lafite Rothschild — which they claim they paid for and should have received in 2019.
“Mr. Gilmer had a litany of excuses” over the past three years in which the plaintiffs have been waiting for their wine, Chung claimed in a January affidavit. Gilmer blamed “trade tariffs, Covid-related issues, shipping problems, etc.,” Chung alleged.
Sherry Lehmann, whose law firm Nixon Peabody has filed a motion to dismiss the case, told The Post in a statement in December that the lawsuit “has no merit” because the company “offered the customers a full refund of their deposit — which they declined.” At the time, company added that the wine is “scheduled to arrive in mid-February.”
As of the first week of March, the wine still hasn’t been delivered, said Sheldon Gopstein, an attorney for the two clients, said of Sherry-Lehmann’s recent tax payments.
“They are just taking steps to help themselves,” Gopstein said.
Sherry-Lehmann’s spokesperson said: “The company’s shipment policy is straightforward: as soon as Sherry-Lehmann receives purchased product from its suppliers, we ship it to customers.”
Goptstein is also representing another customer who is suing the wine store for $184,452 for failing to deliver wine he purchased, according to court documents. Elsewhere, a Long Island trucking company, Hub Truck Rental Corp., sued the retailer to recoup nearly $40,000 in leasing fees, court papers show. Sherry Lehmann never responded to the complaint and a judge ordered the retailer to pay off the $37,558 debt.
“The company is taking care of its financial obligations with vendors and suppliers as the company continues to address any past balances that arose during the pandemic,” the Sherry-Lehman spokesperson said.
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