MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — Middle Township Committee approved going out to bid for an additional liquor license after increasing the minimum bid for the new license by $250,000.
There were no comments from the public and no discussion among board members on the resolution before the unanimous vote. As Mayor Timothy Donohue pointed out, committee has discussed the issue for about a year leading up to the vote.
That included delaying a vote on May 20 after some residents suggested a minimum bid of $500,000 was not enough. Monday’s resolution set the minimum at $750,000.
Bids are set to be opened on Aug. 21.
“We look forward to seeing what the market is,” said Donohue. “We wanted to make sure that we set that price at a point that would protect our current licensees and the value of their licenses as well. I think we’ve done good work and our due diligence and now we’ll let the free market take over.”
The township currently has five consumption licenses and two distribution licenses, along with four club licenses. According to township officials, one of the existing licenses has been inactive, and another is used seasonally.
The township has not auctioned a new liquor license since 2000, when Acme Markets was the successful bidder at $652,000. As Donohue pointed out Monday and at previous meetings, since that time the area has seen the opening on a number of local breweries, wineries and distilleries, which undergo a different state licensing system.
There are also plans for a new hotel in the township, which is set to have its own licenses as allowed under state law for hotels with more than 100 rooms.
The township announced in 2018 that its population had grown to the point where it was entitled to an additional license for alcohol sale. At the first meetings on the topic, residents and numerous license holders crowded the meeting room to have their say and ask questions about the plan.
Donohue believes most of those questions and concerns have been addressed, pointing out that none of the license holders attended Monday’s meeting and there were no comments from the public at that meeting either.
“I just want to assure people that we did not rush into this. We probably took close to a year to explore all of the options out there,” Donohue said at the end of the meeting.
At previous meetings, some license holders raised concern that if the new license goes for too little money, it will mean their licenses will be less valuable if they decide to sell. Others see the new license as an engine for economic growth in the township, with the potential for a new restaurant that will bring more people to commercial areas.