GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Officials say they are not ready to give away a liquor license to the lowest bidder - they're looking for the something better when it comes to new commercial development.
Mayor Don Purdy said at a recent township Council meeting that he does not want to go a dime below $325,000 for the retail distribution liquor license. Township Manager Arch Liston is researching just how much liquor licenses have sold for recently in the area, Purdy said.
The mayor said liquor licenses have sold in the township for between $375,000 and $475,000.
"I believe the economy is starting to come back around, and people are starting to do development. The residents of Galloway own that license, and it's up to us to make sure we get the best amount of money for that license," Purdy said.
Liston said the township received an offer of $150,000 this spring for the license, bypassing a bidding process with the offer.
Purdy said he didn't even want to entertain the offer, because the township might as well have given the liquor license away at a price like that.
"The last license in this area just sold in Northfield for $650,000. Liquor licenses just don't sell like they used to because the return is so low. Many licenses that were selling a few years ago for $600,000 are going for about $150,000 now," Liston said.
This past spring, the $600,000 sale of a liquor license in Northfield was for Bootleggers Liquor Outlet on Tilton Road.
In Brigantine, developer Michael Snyder and his partner, Jack Scheurich, purchased the license formerly held by the Rod and Reel Tavern for $145,000 in May when it was auctioned by the state Division of Taxation for unpaid taxes. The Rod and Reel Tavern closed after Hurricane Sandy due to storm damage.
Also in May, Vineland City Council voted unanimously to advertise for bids for a new liquor license with a minimum bid of $450,000. Officials in Vineland contend the sale of the license is important to keep the municipal budget balanced.
The minimum bid was increased to $450,000 from $300,000 because the license was initially part of a development agreement for the new ShopRite supermarket project on West Landis Avenue. But developers in that project bought an existing liquor license for $475,000 this year. City officials said based on a review of liquor license sales in Vineland, they moved to increase the minimum bid to $450,000.
In Galloway Township, officials said, keeping the budget balanced is also important, but they pointed to holding out for a better offer and potentially a big developer for their liquor license.
"If we give it away now we're not going to have it when a big developer comes in. If we sell it at bargain basement, we are devaluing every license around," Councilman Jim Gorman said.
The retail distribution liquor license currently for sale by Galloway was created as a result of the population increase in the township recorded by the 2010 Census, Liston said.
The township has three other retail distribution liquor licenses, three club liquor licenses, 26 retail consumption licenses for restaurants and bars, and one hotel license, according to information provided by the township Clerk's Office.
Purdy said holding onto the liquor license and eventually selling it at a higher price could spur commercial development in the township. Once you let something go for nothing, it is going to set a precedent moving forward for the sale of liquor licenses, Purdy said.
The township has several "shovel-ready" project parcels that could accommodate the type of business that would go along with a liquor license, Purdy said.
Purdy pointed to a large parcel in the Pomona section of the township on the White Horse Pike near the new CVS store.
"A liquor license is a large purchase along with a facility, and for a business like that, it could be upwards of a $2 million commitment. But, at the end of the day, the question is, is there someone to buy it," Purdy said.
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