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Ginning up support for liquor sales at the Moorestown Mall

This is a multiple-choice question. Please feel free to stop reading right now if you don’t enjoy test taking or you have never been able to make up your mind about anything and instead rely on a Ouija Board to make all your important decisions.

I do NOT want to see alcohol come to the Moorestown Mall because:

a) I don’t need liquor in order to shop foolishly
b) I love paying high property taxes due to our lack of ratables in town
c) I am afraid of change
d) I don’t drink, ergo no one else should drink

I have been avoiding this particular atomic bomb of a topic because of my mixed feelings and because there are still some people in town that don’t understand the difference between journalistic writing and opinion.

Journalistic writing is when the author states the facts in a straightforward way. Opinion writing is when I get all riled up about something that many Mo’towners are feeling but are afraid to say out loud. I’m the only one dumb enough to commit these deep dark thoughts to paper, thus inflaming those that sit by their computers on an hourly vigil, waiting to fire back. 

It gets a little tiresome being the lightning rod atop Town Hall. But since the other issues dividing our town have quieted down for the time being, it seems that we need to explore the bothersome booze issue. It’s not as if we can avoid it, what with robo-calls, mailings and the petition that wholesome young 20-somethings are carting right to our doorsteps. PREIT and TR4M (the latest in our local parade of acronyms) mean business folks, so let’s hash this one out. First let me put down my martini.

I made the observation, several columns ago, that our mall has always been the ugly stepsister to the Cherry Hill Mall. This has nothing to do with alcohol. The Cherry Hill Mall has always been a destination, a must-see. It was the first mall east of the Mississippi river when it opened in October 1961. The main reason our homely mall was built three years later was to “protect” the Cherry Hill Mall, so even from the beginning, our ‘lil mall was relegated to second-class status.

On the same day that a cheerful young woman in an Eagles jersey appeared at my door, petition in hand, I received a folksy letter from Joe Coradino. This letter starts out like this: “I hope this letter finds you and your family well.”

Right away, I want to shoot Joe, or at least tell him how my family is really doing. “Thanks for asking, Joe. My husband is in a hospital in Denver and I’m really worried. Also, my dog just threw up what looks like a small mammal, maybe a chipmunk, so your concern is truly touching.”

I will state my position right now. Despite my annoyance at Joe’s clumsy opening salvo, I am totally in favor of allowing alcohol at the Moorestown Mall. I think it is the only way to save our snooze fest of a mall and pump some much needed capital into our small town. I know that there are rabid anti-liquor folks out there and while I certainly understand their position, I believe that change is in the air and that if we don’t move forward with this, we stagnate and watch our taxes continue to rise and rise and rise.

I do not drink. Not for any moral reasons, it is just that I like to eat way more than I like to drink. If you want to have a cocktail with your dinner, you have only to traverse Lenola Road to one of the many establishments across from the mall, or at the Acme Plaza. If you crave a margarita, Don Pablo’s, which used to be in Moorestown but is now magically in Mt. Laurel, can sate your craving. In other words, alcohol is already in our backyard, so take off your blinders and pull up a barstool.

People keep making ludicrous comparisons, saying that Ocean City, Collingswood and Haddonfield are “dry towns,” and they’re doing just fine. Here’s my reply to that: Ocean City = beach, boardwalk, OCEAN. As for Collingswood and Haddonfield, they are both closer to Philly, making them much more cosmopolitan (and hip). Their main drags are filled with revenue-producing stores and restaurants. Our main drag is NOT doing just fine, thanks for asking, and everyone knows it.

being proposed would a) allow the sale of alcohol in Mo’town, and b) restrict the sale of alcohol to restaurants at the mall only and would prohibit liquor licenses in other parts of town for any purpose.

If you’ve gotten “the letter” you know that the above comes directly from “the letter.” You are also aware that we, the citizens of Moorestown and NOT Town Council, could renew these restrictions. May I give my own interpretation of that last statement? PREIT is giving us a say in this because we don’t trust politicians and we deserve to regulate this issue.

For those of you convinced that gin mills and seedy taverns will dot Main Street if this referendum passes, may I respectfully remind you that we have an abundance of churches and several schools on Main Street? Laws already in place prohibit the sale of alcohol near these establishments.

PREIT has apparently learned from its first attempt. The referendum is now more succinct: booze at the mall? Si! Booze anywhere else in town? No! The Little Acme will not become the Moorestown Speakeasy, but the Moorestown Mall might actually start bringing some revenue into the town coffers.

Just an opinion, folks. Care to join the fray?

Nimby Booze July 18, 2011 at 08:24 PM
Still amazing..even if them booze chain pubs were to come to mall. Really, how is that going to help the mall? People are going to the restaurant to eat and sip. String majority will not shop then go to these restaurants or vice versa. Well, the situation could go on and say drunken shopping? Say we go to cherry hill And racetrack restaurants. We very rarely go shopping before or after our chows and sips. I believe that's a proven fact that unless the restaurant is in the mall or have access back door connects to mall. Cherry hill doesn't have that. Giro maggianos or babmama mommas or seasons, no direct access to mall. Again the town really doesn't benefit, quite frankly, not too much the mall either..
Bill July 18, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Ms. Mason, I oppose the Mall’s campaign for several reasons, but let me mention just three. The first two will be in this comment, the third needs to go in the next one due to your web site's space limits. First, the Mall is seeking to circumvent New Jersey law that precludes another liquor sale referendum in Moorestown until next year. I believe the law is clear, but would welcome hearing the reasons why they think the law doesn’t apply. I can go into detail, if necessary, but the “different question” argument is simply incorrect. Two, as was the case last time, the figures the Mall is throwing around are vastly over inflated. If the sale of liquor is going to be restricted to the Mall, there will be only one bidder for one liquor license. I don’t know what it would sell for, but it wouldn’t remotely approach $4 million. And what is the $500,000 per year estimate based on? It could only relate to increased real estate tax revenues since there are no other significant applicable sources of revenue that would flow to the town. So is the Mall going to ask the town to increase its taxes? I don’t think so. And even if this $500,000 per year estimate is accurate, it is less than one per cent of the town’s tax revenues. What difference is that going to make?
Bill July 18, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Three, I don’t think a couple of restaurants that serve alcohol would materially help the Mall. You do evidently, and you are of course entitled to your opinion, but I don’t agree. As you point out, the Moorestown Mall has always been the stepchild of the Cherry Hill Mall, and will always be. There is nothing anyone can do about that. Liquor won’t change that.
Politically Incorrect in Moorestown July 19, 2011 at 12:52 AM
Bill, you forgot point #4: If the mall doesn't get liquor licenses, it could potentially close and there go the tax dollars for the town....this isn't about drinking at restaurants, this is about attracting more upscale restaurants which leads to more upscale stores which leads to people shopping in the mall. No liquor could equal abandoned mall eventually. You choose.
KJL July 19, 2011 at 01:09 AM
Bill - First of all, your commentary thus far has been refreshing. Even though I support the idea of liquor being allowed in certain circumstances as a way to increase ratables/tax revenue, I enjoy intelligent and well thought out arguments. Secondly, however, I see in your post that it was suggested, presumably by PREIT, that the potential tax revenue increase due to liquor at the mall is 500k? Is that correct? If so, you dismissed that as somewhat nominal but I disagree. That is TWICE the amount of money needed to fund the KIDS Initiatve per year and represents roughly half of what the entire Town Hall Complex will cost per year if the four buildings are constructed. That is a lot of debt service relief!
Bill July 19, 2011 at 01:44 AM
KL, first of all, I question the $500,000 estimate, but would be willing to look at the details on which it is based. As I see it, it would only come from higher taxes on the Mall under the Mall's proposal. Second, sure every penny helps the budget, but I view the amount as relatively nominal in the full scheme of things. I understand you have a different view. Wake up, I don't believe the Mall will close if they don't get liquor licenses. If that is what you think, well, you are entitled to your opinion. The Mall has survived for almost 50 years -- through many a recession -- without a liquor license. We are in another recession now to be sure, and it disproportionately hurts small businesses, and it has certainly impacted the Mall. I just don't think liquor licenses are the answer. The answer is a better economy, which hopefully will happen.
MTPS alumni July 19, 2011 at 02:04 AM
Billy- I think you're wrong on hoping for a better economy under the current administration. Second..you appear right on with the mall. The mall has survived all these Years knowing that won't get booze in a dry town. Why whine now? Are they using this recession to get the people to feel all is doom? Is it the pizza arcade? The mall surely as done many times in the past, whether fires or recessions, they can survive without liquor. But we can't think maybe this is a good idea or maybe it is good over there at the mall and ten find later after somehow booze was passed that we find booze doesn't have much an effect anyhow. We can't turn back to a dry town! The mall perhaps has some type of strategy and saying let's do this with "a gloom and doom" picture and as mr revere stated before and throw it put there and see what sticks. Maybe the residents of moorestown could be so gullible to believe all this rhetoric and pass it? I hope Not.
Harry Jones July 19, 2011 at 02:50 AM
Restricting liquor sales to only the mall and "fine dining establishments" won't hold up in a court of law. Town council already changed zoning to allow for the pizza/arcade restaurant to be built. Council knew the liquor referundum was coming up again, and allowed for the slop house to be built. If for some remote chance this referundum passes, the first fine dining restaurant to buy a license will be the pizza joint so they can be on par with their other locations.One more reason not to go the mall if that should happen. PREIT is pleading to the poor Moorestown taxpayers to help PREIT be more profitable under the guise of "tax relief" Bernie Madoff had a great deal for you too. Vote this BS campaign down, keep Moorestown Moorestown. If you like Cherry Hill, Voorhees and Evesham, shop, dine, watch movies and move there for their low taxes and shopping experiences.
Carmen H. von Wrangell July 19, 2011 at 11:56 AM
This is great!!! Democracy in action! I'm a rabid anti-Che Guevara t-shirts and that's all. Anything else, I'm ready to listen and learn and change my mind if I've been wrong-headed. So I'd like to know who is 100% sure that one liquor license or two, or ten will save the mall. Who can guarantee the mall's survival? Have the high-end stores been clamoring to come to Moorestown if only drinkies were served? Will someone make a list of those stores? I need convincing. Please show me the names of all the stores and other businesses that are ready to open their doors in Moorestown once liquor has been approved. In the meantime, I'm going to make me a cosmo and sit under a patio umbrella and enjoy the fray from afar.
Politically Incorrect in Moorestown July 19, 2011 at 12:14 PM
Bill, in my opinion, you cannot compare the recession of the past with the current recession nor competitive environment of today that the mall must withstand. Yes, it did stand the test of time for 50 years, however, this is an entirely new generation of consumers...the "mall consumer" of the past didn't use smart phones, have apps for savvy shopping prices, want to spend money at nice places, etc. Liquor is one necessity to surviving in these times and is now a "cost of doing business" for any major retail tract of land. If you want to see what not having liquor and upscale stores looks like, take a drive down Route 130 anytime... empty shopping plaza after empty shopping plaza. I realize that change is difficult for people but let's band together and do what's right for today's times for our wonderful town!
Anna Kurzeja July 19, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Seriously people, having alcohol served is that big of a deal for Moorestown? Why? What is the real fear in having some establishments serve alcohol? Why are you looking at how businesses will benefit? Why not look at how Moorestown will benefit? Whether it is pennies or dollars that Moorestownians will save-it's still a savings. Personally, I know I wouldn't mind being able to stay local when I go out on my "date-nights" with my husband. We are loyal to the local businesses, but sometimes we would like to be able to have a good drink at an upscale restaurant and that always means going into another town to partake. If Moorestown had an upscale restaurant that offered alcohol, we would definitely be going there instead. Again, seriously, is it really going to hurt YOU if some establishments are serving alcohol? How many times have YOU gone to another mall...say Cherry Hill...and had someone walk out of a restaurant and bother YOU because they had a drink with their meal? Setting aside the benefits for businesses and local people, give me some REAL hard facts on how allowing SOME establishments serve alcohol will hurt YOU personally. We already have BYOBs so what does it matter if we have places that actually carry and serve alcohol, especially when we (Moorestown) can financially benefit from it? Change is sometimes good and in this case it would be GREAT for Moorestown.
MTPS alumni July 19, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Hey Carmen the mall employees have been stated in earlier postings, that an "applebee's" would come "if we get get a liquor referendum passed" I understand if you ask them the same questions you asked "applebees" Is their place they have been talking up. But that's it as far as it goes. Could this be like the Willingboro plaza where they stated that they would have restaurants and all they were able to get was a ruby Tuesdays for which the town had to give Away. Also, what guarantee of a price tag per license? I've heard from $50, $100k, higher. --doubt it. Once liquor is in ...NO way back! No Liquor in Moorestown please!....,.,
Bill Kurzeja July 19, 2011 at 01:00 PM
I have to say that I like the back and forth and I can see both sides of the discussion. The only thing that I haven't seen is how to help our Main Street businesses or any of the other issues that our town faces. I know that we can't change back to a dry town but I don't think that if we keep doing things the same way that the economy will just suddenly get better! We have to think outside the box and make some changes and adding drinks to the menu may just add enough to start us in a different direction. One thing is for sure something has to happen.
MTPS alumni July 19, 2011 at 01:34 PM
So if the economy were great and a lot of $$ going around like there has been in past, why wasn't liquor a big desire then? Really, the mall and spokepeople are trying to use this double dip recession to absorb people into thinking ahh.. Tell them the short term flush of cash and maybe we will convince enough people that this is te answer. Stop right there.. And think before you agree with this "grand story". Some day we will be out of this economic mess, and will find we are just fine without the booze. Yes BK we can't turn back to a dry town and we could be left with something that we will regret.
Elizabeth July 19, 2011 at 02:04 PM
WHAT? What will we be left with to regret, Alumni? And please, since you are so proud of your alumni status, try to respond coherently, and use your spell check.
Booze Free Mtown July 19, 2011 at 02:27 PM
This liquor idea stinks! while reading, I had to add my two cents, have a good day! 1) The truth - other people here have stated the mall employees are saying to them personally, that the mall would get an Applebee's. Now, I personally, as well, can claim that as the truth. They volunteered that information. I got that at the mall from them. The others may have received that info from "mall employees" (they stated) that while they were canvassing, that the mall was getting an applebees. So if true, not much of a big deal, right? 2) oh, and to respond to your other posting to clarify.. Moorestownians? spell check..Moorestonians! Perhaps "LLP" and "wake up" are they same? spell the same?
Politically Incorrect in Moorestown July 19, 2011 at 03:22 PM
Thank you Booze Free Mtown for taking time out of your valuable day to correct my spelling. That was well worth your time...feel better about yourself big guy? I only have one sign on name so if my spelling was similar to LLP, it's a coincidence...or perhaps he/she followed my poor spelling and mimicked me. This conversation is so off track and ridiculous at this point if we're resorted to spelling corrections...
Booze Free Mtown July 19, 2011 at 03:24 PM
Slow JG...it has been mall employees at the information desk, who are collecting the signatures, no stories, just the facts ma'am . Sorry you got flustered to hear that.
Booze Free mtown July 19, 2011 at 05:00 PM
No, really, the mall employees are saying applebees, as though it's some big deal. I just drive past applebees in cherry hill an hour ago, too close by. Also chuck e cheeses is a cherry hill too. But what about Johnnys incredible pizza arcade? Are they really running away? They need games of chance and perhaps want the liquor license too. Isn't Johnny like chuck cheeses? Also Nordstroms didn't come to Moorestown not because of no liquor, but because of they need a parking garage. The mall states there was no room for that, and I'm sure the town wouldn't approve either.
Politically Incorrect in Moorestown July 19, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Booze Free, I called the mall management office and they had no comment about the types of restaurants or the liquor referendum and confirmed that no mall employees discussed Applebees or any other restaurant with anyone. Can you please clarify who, when and where you spoke to someone as this really gets to a major credibility issue with your statements?
Harry Jones July 19, 2011 at 09:41 PM
Jersey Girl, I didn't write that the word sue, I wrote "wouldn't hold up in a court of law" There is no legal precedent to allow liquor sales only in one area of town and only to "fine dining establishments". The state ABC would probably fight it in court. However, if some large well funded corporation wanted to buy the Acme building on Young Ave. and sell liquor there, they would be the type to challange in court that only the mall can do so.
KJL July 19, 2011 at 11:00 PM
I have an idea. Let's allow liquor sales in restaurants at the mall and dedicate the additional tax revenues specifically and soley for the purposes of funding the Rec Dept and the recreation facilities. This makes OS people happy...KIDS people are happy...PREI is happy...users of the mall are happy....and most improtantly, NO TAX INCREASE!
Barney Boozeman July 20, 2011 at 12:18 AM
I believe previous town councils, ok a decade or more ago, have maintained all of our rec fields without raising taxes, including the Turf field. Liquor is not a long term solution to alleviate taxes. Somehow we will get out of this double dip recession, perhaps a few years, the other issues in town may be resolved. Liquor is not the answer
Bill Kurzeja July 20, 2011 at 02:01 AM
OK. So I have seen multiple times the question asked if not liquor what other option do we have to increase revenue into our town? Yet I have seen many people say that the town will survive this recession how? Should we hold our breath and hope it gets better or should we make some changes and take this recession head on! Now I will ask again to all the people that say liquor is bad first why is it bad and what is another option? If you want to convince people not to vote for something than give them a reason and the reason that it is bad doesn't work. By the way there is a big liquor store not too far from the empty ACME in fact there are two so now what? One last thing why hide behind a sign on name?
KJL July 20, 2011 at 11:43 AM
Barney - I am not sure what point you are trying to make about prior Council's maintenance of fields. However, the reality is that the athletic fields in this town are in a state of disrepair, varying from mild to severe. I am not a municipal budget expert but i can tell you firsthand that the Town has not invested in its athletic facilities for as long as I have been involved in kids sports (1999), with the exception of the current turf field which was done with similar community urging as KIDS and with club contributions. Throwing some sod down in spots, fixing some lights, closing a field that is torn up is not investment or a maintenance program, it's a reaction to the failure of a field. Since certain folks object to using OS Funds...and a lot of those same folks object to increasing taxes...why not generate additional tax revenue and dedicate it to a current need?
KJL July 20, 2011 at 01:08 PM
That field is the worst. And as bad as it is for field hockey, it is worse for football if we have another dry spell like last summer/fall. Tackling drills were painful to the point of dangerous....boys bouncing off the ground like it was concrete. I heard a number of 500k per year in additional tax revenue. That pays for KIDS debt service, some additional investment debt service (think fixing lights at Maple Dawsown or Jeff Young), AND eliminates the need to use OS Funds for Rec Dept expenses as has been done for the past several years.
Our Town July 20, 2011 at 08:48 PM
If this passes, I am buying one of the abandoned, run down, dilapidated stores on Main Street and opening a raucous biker bar. BOO! Like the op ed. author, I don't drink, not for any particular reason so in that regard, I have no skin in the game but we residents of this town better start getting serious or the only thing new coming to Main Street will be tumble weeds. From the Mall to downtown, Moorestown is a mere shadow of its former self and continues the downward spiral. Unkempt properties, trash, weeds, broken sidewalks, all the telltale signs of a town in decline. While we arrange the deck chairs in the overgrown parking lot of the library, wring our hands over a gopher hole between 3rd and home, or pass yet another empty store on the one time a year we actually go to the mall, Rome is beyond burning and is a smoldering, unrecognizable heap. Time to go big or go home before there is no 'home' left.
Carmen H. von Wrangell July 21, 2011 at 12:07 PM
What happened to civilized discourse on the issue at hand? People have gone far afield, words have become hand grenades and the temperature of the arguments has been raised to ridiculous levels. Still, nobody is convincing anybody else. All of a sudden it's about grammar -atrocious, I see, so the good schools of Moorestown must be failing or most of the commentators are drunk already. I'm not referring just to spelling (it's instead of its and so on) but clarity of composition. Low-down nastiness in one hand and superciliousness in the other won't win the day. And by the way, what's a Tee-Totter? Last time I heard it was tetotaller. Please correct me if I'm wrong. And pass the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Bryan Reddan August 01, 2011 at 02:40 AM
I agree!!! Except...don't you think the additonal revenues would serve more of the Moorestown population by getting a new Library/Town Hall complex built than they would getting new Rec Fields built??? Let's do that first, then we can focus on the fields - unless you have a solution to do both at the same time....
Elephant utr August 01, 2011 at 03:26 AM
People have said that it's the crap that come with the booze. Next, I hear that the booze won't really help our town. It's the self interests or owners that want it. even the local restauranteurs don't want the booze. And yes, the liquor went down 2-1 four years ago and that clearly shows the big majority of the citizens don't want it. The town doesn't "need" liquor. It doesn't appear to gain much and therefore doesn't need it either. It has done fine during good times and bad economic times without liquor. The "mall and grassroots" seem to try to take advantage of this bad economic time to try to sway others into thinking it would help, when it actually financially would seem to be neutral and leaving this wonderful town with all the crap and problems that could occur with liquor licenses.

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