VINELAND — Opponents of a plan to create a new liquor license promised as part of a development agreement for a new $17 million ShopRite say the proposal puts their businesses in jeopardy.

The liquor license holders and the attorney for the New Jersey Liquor Store Alliance told City Council on Tuesday that sales could drop significantly if Bottino ShopRite operates a package goods facility at its supermarket.

“It’s no secret that when a large retail liquor outlet opens anew in a town, the volume of sales decreases (in some existing) store by about 20 percent,” alliance attorney Carmen Saganario said. “They essentially have the impact of driving the smaller stores out of business, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.”

Pete Steenland, a local resident who owns an inactive liquor license, said the plan to create a new liquor license circumvents the traditional procedure in which existing liquor licenses are bought from their owners. There are some liquor license holders willing to sell their licenses to Bottino ShopRite, he said.

But City Council and its solicitor, Alfred Verderose, said it may be too late to change the proposal: Bottino ShopRite only agreed to build its supermarket on West Landis Avenue if a new liquor license was made available.

City Council members Douglas Albrecht and Louis Cresci said the municipality is not just handing Bottino ShopRite the license. The license will be put to auction, meaning other entities can bid for it, they said.

The base bid price is $300,000, a figure he said is more expensive than what liquor licenses generally sell for in Vineland, Albrecht said.

“It was a very legitimate approach,” Cresci said.

City Council President Peter Coccaro said he did not believe there were any liquor licenses up for sale when Bottino ShopRite negotiated the development agreement with the municipality.

“Now I’m learning that there are liquor licenses for sale,” he said.

Work has already started on the ShopRite, which is being built on a 14-acre parcel across West Landis Avenue from a Super Walmart that opened in 2009

Steenland asked what Bottino ShopRite would do if it loses the auction.

Albrecht replied that it “looked like they hadn’t pondered what would happen if they don’t get the license.”

The opening of the Walmart was a project that local officials hoped would encourage more commercial development on the stretch of West Landis Avenue between Route 55 and Delsea Drive, which is also designated as Route 47.

Construction of the supermarket would create what city officials said would be a sort of economic gateway to the downtown business district. Albrecht said he did not want to stand in the way of that kind of economic project by changing the development agreement with Bottino ShopRite.

But Saganario asked City Council, which could introduce an ordinance next week to create the new liquor license, to move slowly with the procedure.

Contact Thomas Barlas:

609-226-9197