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MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — With the bids in on a new liquor license, the township may get more than it bargained for, with the apparent winning bid coming in well above the $600,000 minimum.

In fact, it came in above the previous $750,000 minimum, reduced after there were no takers over the summer.

When the township opened bids, the highest came in at $803,000, Mayor Tim Donohue announced at Monday’s Township Committee meeting.

Steps remain before the license is awarded, likely before the end of the year. Background checks are required before a license can be awarded.

“We expect that process to go smoothly, and we can award that and announce the person who bought it at our next meeting,” Donohue said. “Those funds will certainly help us coming in to 2020.”

Township Business Administrator Kimberly Krauss said after the meeting that Theresa Hand, of Stone Harbor, put in the highest bid by the Nov. 20 deadline. The Hand family owns Fred’s Tavern on 96th Street in Stone Harbor.

Fred’s Tavern is a Stone Harbor landmark, opened by Fred Menzel in the 1930s.

No one from Fred’s Tavern responded to a request for comment. Krauss said the family has plans for a restaurant in the township and a tentative location in mind, but did not offer further details.

She expects to have a resolution on the agenda to award the contract by the Dec. 16 committee meeting.

If approved, the license award will be the culmination of a process that started when the township learned its population had grown to the point where it would be allowed a sixth license for alcohol sales under state rules.

The sale of the license will bring revenue to the township, but throughout the past year, Donohue has said the township wanted to move carefully, pointing out that much had changed since Acme Markets purchased the last license in 2000 for $625,000.

For instance, several breweries and wineries have opened in the township and other areas of the county since that time, selling beer and wine by the glass under a state license. The township has also seen a proposal for a 101-room hotel, which would be entitled to a license to sell alcohol, and Cape May County plans to include alcohol sale in a public-private partnership in the former Rio Grande mall, to be known as County Commons, under yet another sort of license.

Donohue said Monday the township would receive an update on those plans from county officials this week. Work is underway at the site, which includes the former Kmart building, set to house county offices and a clinic for veterans, as well as a new movie theater.

Township officials originally considered a $500,000 minimum bid, but after current license holders raised concerns, the minimum was increased to $750,000. But no one bid on the license by the Aug. 21 deadline.

Middle Township currently has five licenses for retail alcohol sales, known as plenary retail licenses, along with four club licenses. The money brought in would go to the township, to be used to reduce taxes, offset spending or go into surplus.

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