Site of the future Santucci’s Square Pizza restaurant.

VENTNOR – Business owners who sought the first two of Ventnor’s three available liquor licenses are ready to present their site plans to the Planning Board. The redevelopment of two properties in two different business districts comes two years after the city agreed to pursue the issuance of retail consumption licenses.

Ventnor currently has several package good licenses and numerous bring your own restaurants, but voters approved a referendum on Nov. 2, 2016 agreeing that liquor should be permitted to be sold by the glass at full-service restaurants. Based on the city population, the city was entitled by NJ Alcohol Beverage Control Board regulations to issue up to three licenses.

Although the liquor license referendum was not held specifically to see these two properties redeveloped, “We created the opportunity,” Commissioner Tim Kriebel said.

The Board of Commissioners Thursday, Nov. 8 awarded the first license to Ventnor Ave. Pizza, Inc. and accepted Ventnor License, LLC’s high bid for the second license. According to Mayor Beth Holtzman, there are no plans to auction off the third license at this time.

Ventnor Ave. Pizza, Inc. principals Blake Barabuscio, Alicia Santucci and Frank Santucci Sr. plan to open a Santucci’s Square Pizza restaurant at the site of the now-closed Arrow Hardware store at 6515 Ventnor Ave. They passed a thorough criminal background check and the muster of the NJ ABC board. Barabuscio’s bid for the license was $77,100, $2,100 higher than the minimum bid amount.

The property will require extensive renovations to turn it into a restaurant. On Monday, Nov. 26, they will present a site plan for the approval of the Planning Board.

Brett DeNafo, Clint Bunting and Scot Kaufman of Ventnor License, LLC purchased the long-abandoned Ventnor Twin movie theater at 5211 Ventnor Avenue and plan to turn it into the Ventnor Square movie theater with a burger bar on the second floor. The trio is the owner of the Harbor Square Theater and Restaurant in Stone Harbor, which has enlivened the Stone Harbor shopping district during the off-season.

The commissioners accepted Ventnor License, LLC high bid totaling $91,100 for the second liquor license and the owners will now have to undergo a background check. Megu Sushi, LLC bid $82,200. The minimum bid amount was $77,100, the amount of the first license issued to Barabuscio.

DeNafo and his partners have already gutted the building and will start remodeling in earnest upon receiving site plan approvals from the Planning Board, he said.

DeNafo said obtaining the liquor license was the last “big hurdle” to overcome before going for site plan approval. He said the building will be “a really cool place” and will “have a good flow.”

Commissioner Lance Landgraf said the theater would not be redeveloped if it were not for the availability of the liquor license. He said the developers told him they would not have pursued the purchase of the dilapidated building were it not for the availability of the liquor license.

“As much as we love our BYOBs, this was meant to be a stimulant,” Kriebel said. “We set the groundwork, put the agreements in place and we are very lucky to have the theater.”

The meeting will be held 6:30 p.m. at the City Hall meeting room.

Ventnor Square Theater and Restaurant site.

Categories: Ventnor

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.