VENTNOR – The Board of Commissioners is considering using a rarely used method to issue its next liquor license.
According to Commissioner Lance Landgraf, using the historical method would provide the commissioners with more control over who gets the license.
Voters approved a referendum in November 2016 allowing the city to issue up to three plenary retail consumption licenses. The city used the traditional public bidding method for its first license. After initial offerings produced not bidders at the $100,000 minimum bid amount, the commissioners reduced the minimum bid to $75,000.
On May 24, the board awarded the bid for the first license to former Ventnor resident Blake Barabuscio of Ventnor Ave Pizza, Inc., who has plans to open a Santucci’s Square Pizza restaurant at the site of Arrow Hardware on Ventnor Avenue.
Brett DeNafo, owner-operator of the Harbor Square Theater and Burger Bar in Stone Harbor, who intends to turn the Ventnor Twin movie theater on the 5200-block of Ventnor Avenue into a “boutique theater” and restaurant, picked up a bid packet prior to the bidding deadline on May 4, but did not submit a bid.
Barabuscio’s bid was $77,100. He will be required to comply with all NJ Alcohol Beverage Control regulations and pass state and federal background checks before the license will be issued.
According to the city’s ordinance, he will have 24 months to open his restaurant, but Barabuscio said previously that he intends to open by next summer.
The historical method requires the city to “advise” its intent to issue a license and accept applications from interested parties, who will be “evaluated” at a public meeting.
Commissioners can consider factors such as intended use, location, traffic, aesthetics, proximity to churches and schools, land use provisions, ratable impact, community needs, parking, business experience, etc. The license can then be awarded to the applicant whose proposal is determined to be in the “best public interest,” according to the Municipal Clerk handbook published by ABC.
The commission is likely to approve a resolution at its June 14 meeting indicating its intent to issue the license using the historical method and setting a deadline to receive applications. The city will be required to advertise in the newspaper twice before holding the public hearing. The city would then have six months to award the license or begin the process all over again.
Any appeals involving the issuance or non-issuance of the license would be heard by the director of ABC.
“It’s not a bidding situation, you set the price…and there is no limit on the number of people that can come forward and request they be given the license,” Solicitor Tim Maguire said.
Landgraf said the historical method would allow the commissioners to “vet” applicants and thoroughly review their business plans.
“It’s similar to an RFQ (request for quotes),” Landgraf said. “It’s more qualitative.”
The board discussed the minimum amount for the second license.
Commissioner Tim Kriebel said the previous bidder set the market rate for a license in Ventnor and he recommended it be $77,100.