Marnie Old, an embattled sommelier?

Posted by Keith Wallace

In the Daily News (many years ago) a much-talked-about gossip column pointed out that longtime Philly sommelier Marnie Old was battling a budding restaurateur.

The owners of the Union Trust steakhouse have lashed out at a local sommelier (that’s wine expert to you and me) who’s trying to block them from getting a liquor license. Marnie Old, who lives on the same block as the steakhouse, filed a protest letter with the state Liquor Control Board last summer.

The controversy still reverberates today, even though Marnie no longer is a major presence in Philadelphia.

The article implied that Marnie’s protest was hypocritical since she opened several major restaurants within Philly. The resulting hailstorm of blog and forum posts has been a bit overwhelming from the personal attacks on [now defunct] Phillyblogs to the misogynist comments on to the criticism on Phoodie.

Sadly, this all happened long before the #MeToo movement. Before Marnie was publicly tarred-and-feathered over this issue, it would have been nice if someone (maybe a journalist?) had pointed out that she had nothing wrong.

Any Philly resident can protest a new restaurant liquor license. These hearings are commonplace and part of the democratic process. Are we willing to deny a citizen the right to participate in the governmental process because she could benefit from it, both personally and professionally, as a sommelier? This may come as a surprise to some, but self-interest is fundamental to the workings of both democracy and capitalism.

I didn’t know Marnie Old, even though there was a persistent rumor several years ago that we were dating (we weren’t: I was dating a lovely woman named Marni). In fact, she used to be a competitor of the Wine School. I spend a lot of time defending her at the time. I found it awful then and now that it was deeply unethical for people to run her out of town on such a flimsy premise.

That said, Marni Old showed her appreciation for my defending her publicly by allowing or possibly encouraging some obscene and libelous comments to be posted about me.  While I don’t think she has control over the blog in question, it was her obligation to distance herself publicly from such hate-mongering done in her name. She didn’t.

Was I right to stand up for her? To this day, I am still not sure.

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