VINELAND — City officials will again try to sell a controversial liquor license, hoping to get the proceeds by the end of December to help balance the municipal budget.
That was the plan earlier this year, when the new city government planned to use the minimum $300,000 originally expected from the sale to bolster the budget.
But the plan is not playing out as well as local officials envisioned. The new $400,000 minimum bid price is $50,000 less than the one on which no offers were made several months ago.
And officials with an organization that represents about 1,500 liquor store owners in New Jersey predict it is not likely that the liquor license will be sold by the end of the year.
The poor economy and a glut of liquor licenses is making it increasingly difficult for municipalities to sell the once sought-after licenses, according to the New Jersey Liquor Store Alliance President Paul Santelle. There have been about 12 new liquor licenses created by New Jersey municipalities in the past 18 months, and only three sold, he said. The purchasers were warehouse stores and not local retailers, he said.
“Absolutely not,” Santelle said of the likelihood of the city selling the license and getting the money by the end of the year.
Asked if Vineland faces a potential budget problem if the liquor license sale does not occur, Roxanne Tosto, the municipality’s chief financial officer, said, “It’s not good, because we don’t know how we are gong to end up by year’s end. If we have other shortfalls, it is not good.”
The original $300,000 represents about three-quarters of a penny on the local purpose tax rate, Tosto said.
The city is advertising for bids on the liquor license Friday and on Oct. 18, City Solicitor Rick Tonetta said. The license will be more extensively advertised than the last attempted sale, with the city using liquor trade publications and media outlets throughout the South Jersey and Philadelphia region, he said.
Those advertisements, and the lower price, might be enough to entice bids, he said.
The previous city administration created the liquor license last year as part of a development deal to ensure construction of a new ShopRite supermarket on East Landis Avenue. City officials said they could create a new license based on the population as indicated by the 2010 census, adding that they believed no existing liquor licenses were for sale.
But after months of wrangling over the details, and objections to the plan by some local liquor retailers and Santelle’s organization, ShopRite developers bought an existing liquor license for more than $400,000. ShopRite developers opted to buy the existing license instead of possibly losing the newly created license to a higher bidder.
City Council voted in May to put the license up for sale, this time with a $450,000 minimum bid requirement. City Clerk Keith Petrosky said the municipality received no bids.
On Tuesday, City Council authorized another attempted sale of the liquor license, this time with a $400,000 minimum bid.
Council President Anthony Fanucci, who took office in January, declined comment when asked if
he thought creation of the new liquor license as part of the ShopRite development agreement was a bad deal for the municipality.
Tosto said “it wasn’t risky” to include the $300,000 proceeds from the liquor license as revenue when the budget was being prepared.
“We thought it was a sure thing,” she said. “I wouldn’t have allowed it to be part of the budget if we really weren’t certain of the collection of it.”
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