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New York bartenders call for investigation of Long Island tea contest

Staff • Jun 18, 2019 at 8:48 AM

Saying the competition was “possibly rigged,” New York bartenders involved in the Long Island Iced Tea contest called for an investigation Monday.

In a news release sent to area media, the New York bar staff said it is “evaluating legal avenues against the fraudulent contest and intends on sending Visit Kingsport a cease and desist letter as they claim to have won the contest.”

Visit Kingsport distributed a nationwide press release last year reclaiming its place in history as the home of the Original Long Island Iced Tea. In response, Butch Yamali, owner of Hudson’s on the Mile, disputed Kingsport’s claim and challenged the Model City to a duel with bragging rights on the line.

Two taste-tests were held, one in Kingsport and one in New York. Hudson’s on the Mile took the first round in New York, while Kingsport dominated the second round at home.

A third taste-testing contest was held Friday in National Harbor, Maryland, at Bobby McKey’s Dueling Piano Bar near Washington, D.C.

Kingsport’s version of Long Island Iced Tea won by a 3-to-2 vote.

“We have had a great relationship with Hudson’s on the Mile and all of their staff who have been part of this for more than a year now,” said Jud Teague, Visit Kingsport executive director. “When I first saw this, I honestly thought this was just their way of trying to keep the competition going, so it’s very unfortunate and disappointing if they really feel this way.”

In Monday’s news release, Yamali called the competition a possible fraud and said his team was excluded from location negotiations for the third contest and had no say in judge selection. He also said the New Yorker's were placed in a corner away from where visitors had easy access to their cocktails, and “called foul after none of the judges wore blindfolds, unlike in the previous two competitions.”

Yamali called the contest “no more than a sham. I took our staff and we walked out.”

“I am calling for an investigation and will be in touch with Tennessee state officials about their unethical conduct,” he said. “We demand that Visit Kingsport apologize and refund our hard earned money spent while in Washington, D.C., for this ruse. Kingsport, Tennessee, has not heard the end of this fight. In fact, it’s just the beginning.”