N. Caldwell Considers Uncorking New Liquor License
Mayor Alessi raises revenue-generating idea at inauguration; available retail lease promotes possible license.
With a tough economy and a challenging 2 percent spending cap in place, many towns in New Jersey are looking for alternate revenue streams. Several municipalities have successfully created an instant boost to town coffers by holding public auctions for liquor licenses – a possibility North Caldwell Mayor Joseph Alessi raised during his inaugural address.
While Alessi did say plans are still in the preliminary stages, a sign on an available retail space at 11 Bloomfield Ave. in North Caldwell reads "liquor store possible."
North Caldwell currently has one liquor license, owned by the Greenbrook Country Club.
The possible location for the new liquor license is in a strip mall on the borough's border in a vacant storefront formerly occupied by Forum for Men. The lease is managed by The Heller Group, a realty company located in Madison. When contacted, Alan Meades, the controller and a director at The Heller Group had "no comment."
North Caldwell Borough Administrator Mel Levine did comment, saying there have been no inquiries yet. Levine added the asking price for a liquor license would depend upon demand, and the town council would make the decision on the bidding process. The council, which seems open to allowing another license, had discussed the issue at a conference meeting last July.
Some municipalities have started the bidding process at $500,000, while some businesses will hold onto licenses in the hopes of selling to another business at a significant profit. In 2009, a liquor license was purchased in Montclair for the Wellmont Theatre for $750,000.
Demand for state liquor licenses began in 1947 after the state enacted strict regulations based on a town's population for acquiring them. Municipalities can only issue one consumption license to serve liquor for every 3,000 residents and one retail license to purchase liquor for every 7,500 residents.
Since the law "grandfathered" existing liquor licenses, a discrepancy has occurred with older towns holding more licenses.
Since North Caldwell has an estimated population of 6,300, the town is allowed to hold two consumption licenses and would be allowed to have one retail license.
Due to grandfathering, Caldwell, with an estimated population of 7,600, holds seven licenses. The borough holds four for retail, Shoprite Liquors, Haj Supermarkets (Jack's), Wine Village and Chintan Enterprises (Bottle Stop), and three for consumption, Ringside Pub, Cloverleaf Tavern and ACLC Inc. (Calandra's Italian Village).
With an estimated population of 11,200, West Caldwell holds six licenses. However, only three of these licenses are currently active, Cleveland's Tap Room, Ginza Restaurant and Mountain Ridge Country Club.
The three inactive licenses are held by King's Distribution, Bel Aire Lanes, and T's Trattoria and Martini Lounge. Bel Aire Lanes was located on the property that is now Walgreens, while T's Trattoria is now a seafood restaurant and Stop & Shop replaced King's.
While current demand for liquor licenses might not be high in West Caldwell and North Caldwell, there are several restaurants in Caldwell that would welcome the opportunity to acquire a license.
Drew Daniolowicz, who recently opened Hog Wild BBQ in Caldwell with his two brothers, said he would "love" having one.
"Even a license just to sell beer and wine would be great," Daniolowicz added.
Daniolowicz said there are many other neighboring restaurants that would probably benefit from a liquor license as well.
"It's crazy. The state should loosen the regulations. Revenues would increase and so would sales taxes," he said.