SEA ISLE CITY — Ludlam Island Brewery, as dead as a beer gone flat following Council’s lack of action to move the proposed brewpub forward two weeks ago, Tuesday tapped into sentiment to keep the discussion alive and earned a spot on Council’s Dec. 9 agenda.
“I’ve been in business 18 years in that building,” Gail Hughes, owner of Scoops ice cream shop at 8305 Landis Ave., said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “I’ve seen businesses come and go. If we got the word out that this is not a bar and will not be open until 2 a.m., it would be good. Townsends Inlet needs something. This would be a benefit to Sea Isle and a benefit to our little complex.”
Bill Topley, majority owner of the brewpub, cannot open the business, where he would be a neighbor to Scoops, without an ordinance change. Because Sea Isle requires a 1,000-foot buffer between competing establishments, churches and schools, Busch’s at 86th Street and Trinity Church at 85th Street make the area a prohibited zone for the brewpub.
“We can remove the ordinance altogether requiring 1,000 feet and rely on the state’s, which requires 200 feet,” Council President John Divney said, “or Council can grant a waiver to this business.”
Sea Isle City stands alone among Cape May County coastal communities in requiring a 1,000-foot buffer. The state standard is 200 feet. Because of the way Sea Isle is zoned, the 1,000-foot rule effectively eliminates the possibility of any liquor establishment opening.
Councilmen Jack Gibson, Frank Edwardi and Bill Kehner all said at the last meeting they did not favor changing the ordinance, which killed the initiative. Edwardi was absent Tuesday and Gibson arrived 30 minutes after the meeting started, missing Council’s discussion of the brewpub.
“Needless to say we are excited about the chance to welcome a new tenant to our complex and we look forward to the anticipated increase in foot traffic that will benefit all of our units,” Mark Padula, president of Shore Corner Condominium Association and a neighbor of the brewpub, wrote in a letter of support that Topley read aloud to Council.
“We feel that our complex is a diamond in the rough and that this tenant could be the catalyst we need to transform our complex into Sea Isle’s next great success story.”
That feeling was not shared by Phyllis Linn, of the 8400 block of Landis Ave., a longtime city resident and former ambulance corps chief.
“I’m an objector,” Linn said. “I live in the area. I consider this a factory-type business that should be in an open area offshore. We don’t need this in an area where people are renting houses in the summer.”
She cited offensive odors as a reason to deny Topley’s request. In an earlier presentation to Council, Topley had explained the house brew process he would use, thereby eliminating eight of the messiest steps, including grain storage, open flames and unwelcome smells, involved in the 14-part brewing method.
By using product that has been manufactured elsewhere, Topley said he would incur extra expense but was willing to do so to be a good neighbor. As a result, his supplies would be delivered via UPS and not a delivery truck. He said he is willing to restrict his hours, closing two hours before Scoops does at midnight, and to keep the business small.
If approved, Ludlam Island Brewery would be the only brewpub in a Cape May County shore town. If successful, Topley said he would like to grow the business by expanding it to other communities rather than grow bigger in his original location.
“There’s a lot of misconception out there,” said Anne Organ, of the 200 block of 39th Street. “When I first heard of this, the young man presented it as a tourist-type thing, not a bar.”
Councilwoman Mary Tighe again endorsed the concept. Previously, she has said she seeks out local brews when she travels and believes visitors to Sea Isle would like to do the same when vacationing at the shore.
Council passed the one ordinance on its agenda Tuesday, voting 3-0 to create the Sea Isle City Jitney Association as the official jitney service for the city. In the four years jitney service has been offered in Sea Isle, the terms under which it operated had mostly been dictated by the drivers and their availability.
Creating its own jitney association gives the city more management control over it, allowing it greater ability to expand hours of service and to limit the number of drivers it will license to about 30. Council also increased the fee to $150 per license to bring that amount in line with other license fees it charges.
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