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BYOBs See Battle Brewing Over Liquor Licenses

Local restauranteurs debate the costs of selling cocktails in town.

During an overcast summer afternoon on tree-lined Main Street, quiet saturates the surroundings, mostly caused by an unbearable wave of mid-summer heat infusing the region.

Some folks are boiling hot—not because of the weather, but over the controversial push to allow a referendum in November on whether to discard the town’s nearly century-old dry status and permit liquor licenses.

Over the last couple of weeks, a has been circulating, led by Joe Coradino, president of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), who owns the . And, if enough voters sign, upward of 2,000, residents may see restaurants at the mall selling alcoholic beverages.

For decades, patrons have been allowed to bring alcohol—a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer—into the upscale BYOBs in this town of Quaker roots.  

But now, the question of liquor licenses is fermenting on the minds of a number of restaurant owners, who fear the infusion from dry to wet could change Moorestown’s image as a family town. Furthermore, there is worry over competition from chain restaurants, the ones more capable of buying the costly licenses.

“No liquor. I live here, and I vacation in Ocean City. Do you know why?” asked John Passariello, an owner of the family-run  on Main Street. “Because they are family towns. I’m against liquor sales.”

Proponents suggest that the distribution of licenses could add high-end restaurants to the town’s profitability, granting needed revenue to a cash-strapped municipality, and easing the tax burden on residents and businesses.

“I understand that the town wants to gain more income, but in South Jersey, licenses can run up to $1 million,” said Robert Minniti, owner of , which is open for lunch and special chef’s dinners. “If you do the math, it is pretty much impossible for a small-scale place to do a volume of business to pay for a liquor license.”

Minniti is co-founder of SJ Hot Chefs, a contingent of culinary professionals who own independent restaurants.

“I personally am against chain restaurants coming to this town. They don’t contribute to the community.”

But Minniti adds, he has spent years trying to provide great food and good service and isn’t too worried about competition, since he has a loyal following.

A couple of doors down, newcomer Mike Picciau, who recently took over , said he worries what the upshot of this contest over cocktails will be.

“I don’t think it would be fair for a restaurant at the mall to sell liquor. Let’s face it, the restaurants at the mall are my neighbors, even if they aren’t next door,” scoffed Picciau. “Everyone should be on the same playing field.”

Not everyone thinks liquor licenses are a bad idea.

When asked if she is apprehensive over the liquor-license buzz, Lisa Zheng, co-owner of Akira 2, shrugs. As much as she likes the way the town is, she would prefer to sell drinks at her sushi and hibachi restaurant.

“We have customers who come from other areas for our food. They don’t realize this is a dry town, and they want to buy a drink,” said Zheng. “If we could get a license, we would.”

 

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Our Town July 22, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Moorestown as a 'dry town' certainly isn't stopping anyone from drinking. The only thing it is stopping is the town having the opportunity to attract more ratables in the form of alcohol serving restaurants. One only need to walk across the street from nearly any border of Moorestown to buy all the liquor they want. Ott's, PJ's, Iron Hill, Don Pablo's all seem to be fairly busy and probably contribute a decent amount of tax revenue to their respective towns but let's be clear, one or two or three licenses won't save Moorestown. While running in circles blathering about 'biker bars', we missed the boat as the big retail tax ratables surrounded us tantalizingly close to our borders, but economically out of reach. The best we can hope for are the John's famous pizza's of the world, because all of the Wegman's, Best Buy's, etc... are in our market already. Certainly the Virtua facility is a big win for the town, the sales of alcohol won't hurt, but it's big corporate that needs courting, not small potatoes restaurants. What we need to decide on is if we want more choices in which to eat or if we want more tax generating companies. If it's the former, we have to allow for alcohol, if it's the latter, we'd better start looking at some real incentives to attract big name headquarters because the current situation is not cutting it.
don cheech July 22, 2011 at 05:33 PM
I have been to nice family towns all over the U.S and Europe where you can get a glass of wine with your pasta....I dont understand the argument here
Ziva July 22, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Right... Current situatio is not cutting it... Moorestown is not living in it means..... town council is spending way to much money for frill items we do not need. We had a good town hall..... now it is being torn down. We have good sport fileds.... now we are getting platicized. Yada - Yaga - Yada ------- things are real crazy in MOORESTOWN..... a town nambed by a tavern owner..... What is with the lawyer Broder ?????? I suppose anyone can be bought out????HEY???? And, what is Button's take on all this???????????????????? HEY?????
Nixon Drive July 22, 2011 at 05:42 PM
Our town .. Thanks, some of us want to look for the latter. Find big incentives to come to town, not liquor. I think the town council and other volunteers need to convince some companies to move hq or a big part of their companies to settle in town. Perhaps as for food, talk with trader joes and whole foods to move to moorestown not nec to add a location. Advertise 295, 73, 38 as a prome location . Whole foods may want to move out of that 30 yr building. Tie that in with what some said a byob bistro row. We as a town can get creative. But like you said a restaurant with liquor at the mall isn't going to cut it.
betty July 22, 2011 at 07:14 PM
hello donnie: your right BYOB restaurants are good. Bring a nice bottle from your wine cellar, enjoy!
betty July 22, 2011 at 07:27 PM
Hey Ziva, who on town council is a "tavern owner"? As for Seth Broder, what type of lawyer is he? Is he a Real estate attorney? Understand the former town councilman is running a "mall grassroots" for the mall owners, is that correct? Who's "buying him out"? What's the next idea?
Ginger Hayes July 22, 2011 at 11:39 PM
I'm starting to not mind the liquor idea but I have no illusions that it will solve any problems other than jobs and different places to eat. Why not a PJ's on young Ave? Is the Acme space big enough for an ISC facility. Indoor sports seems to be very busy. We gotta keep throwing out ideas.... Liquor isn't the answer but certainly not going to hurt either.
Ginger Hayes July 22, 2011 at 11:53 PM
Good gravy if they have money to fund a cause that will shut down tax revenue options then they should be making donations to twp so help off set potential loss of tax revenue. Keeping Liquor out so the folks at Martins (which pays taxes to Mt Laurel!) can have a financial advantage is hog wash and sends me running to the yes button. I'm not going to be forced to go there because they are the only option. Healthy competition is good for everyone's wallet!!!!
Nixon Drive July 23, 2011 at 12:47 AM
Whoa.. Ginger you are that quick to believe a rumor or made up story from "truth"? "the group" is having talks with liquor stores? Is liquor stores (package goods) on the ballot. Last I checked..NO. Nice try "truth". Trying to start a rumor, yet doesn't make sense. Buy really, who have the pro liquor consulted/funded etc? That should be an interesting answer.
Ziva July 23, 2011 at 01:02 AM
Rateables - I heard Vernom Hill just had his taxes reduced............ what is that all about? Why doesn't Vernon Hill pop some money in Moorestown? Issn't a Mr. Hill on Town Hall advisory board/ Why don't the Hill's give money to Moorestown?????? Moorestown was named after a tavern owner? Funny is it dry.... The problem with Moorestown Town Council is that it wants more money... right Ginger???? But ---- why is it spending more money than it is taking in............ what is up with that Ginger?????? Maybe Town Council should respond..... one member of town council is on this list...... haven't you noticed............... guess who.............. speak up Mr. ?
Ziva July 23, 2011 at 01:02 AM
Ziva 9:02pm on Friday, July 22, 2011 Rateables - I heard Vernom Hill just had his taxes reduced............ what is that all about? Why doesn't Vernon Hill pop some money in Moorestown? Issn't a Mr. Hill on Town Hall advisory board/ Why don't the Hill's give money to Moorestown?????? Moorestown was named after a tavern owner? Funny is it dry.... The problem with Moorestown Town Council is that it wants more money... right Ginger???? But ---- why is it spending more money than it is taking in............ what is up with that Ginger?????? Maybe Town Council should respond..... one member of town council is on this list...... haven't you noticed............... guess who.............. speak up Mr. ?
Ziva July 23, 2011 at 01:05 AM
Why in July does Moorstown transform itself? We had "the great fire in Town Hall in July" Now we have the " the booze wars in July ".... I think people should stay out of Moorestown..................... in July... too dangerous.
Fred July 23, 2011 at 01:07 AM
Interesting dialogue. Really. But when I read the anti's I wonder if this confirms outsiders view of us as effete snobs. We can correct that notion by pointing out we are in the same situation as Willingboro when it comes to liquor.
Todrunktodrink July 23, 2011 at 01:16 AM
Booz-a-nomics Wow..... have a drink....Moorestown Town Council wants us all to drink......... why? To spend more money on stupid things ---- A useless town hall for Button???????????? Plastic fields for what............ la crosse sports???????????????????????/// What is next ------------ legalized drug use on main street...................... why no............ let all just get drunk, booze up and get stoned?????????????/
Black and Gold July 23, 2011 at 01:17 AM
Based on his rants, one would think Ziva (Ed) would support the sale of liquor in Moorestown.
utr July 23, 2011 at 01:17 AM
Ask yourself this, "what is the downside to allowing liquor in town?" No one has been able to give a realistic answer to that question. BTW Pre-prohibition Moorestown allowed alcohol. Prohibition ended over 80 years ago, maybe its time our town move into the new century.
Ginger Hayes July 23, 2011 at 01:18 AM
Never said i believed anything, but it's as plausible as TC having hidden agenda... Nothing surprises me from either side!!!!
Black and Gold July 23, 2011 at 01:22 AM
Just so everyone can follow, Ed has just changed his name again.
Ginger Hayes July 23, 2011 at 01:26 AM
Ziva have you been drinking?
Fred July 23, 2011 at 01:28 AM
Todrunktodrink......try a valium.
Nixon Drive July 23, 2011 at 01:43 AM
Is Eddie right? Did he wake up a town councilmember(s) here? Why are doing this for the mall? Do you know if they are selling?
utr July 23, 2011 at 01:59 AM
Either way is a boon for the town. If they get the license and start putting pad sites around the mall or expand the mall means more no cost ratables for the town. If the liquor license helps them sell it, no doubt the new owner would do the same. Capital improvement = more cash for the town. Support our cash cow anyway you can.
Nixon Drive July 23, 2011 at 02:05 AM
Hmm, more applebee's ? I see from before? Wow a couple of liquor licenses won't bring much revenue to town.not a good argument. Perhaps towncouncil or others need to bring corporate not bars and pubs. Utr are you in the game to buy a license?
utr July 23, 2011 at 02:32 AM
A. What's wrong with Applebees? Too low brow for you? B. What structure in town does not get taxed. One Applebees = two houses except Applebees doesn't send anyone to school or have trash collected or use the library or rec fields and it can't even vote. Where is the downside? I wonder if the people in this town struggling to meet their mortgage and tax obligations would turn their nose up that at a place provides an affordable decent night out. Nixon Drive what's it like to have excrement that does not stink?
Ginger Hayes July 23, 2011 at 02:39 AM
How did he come up with Ziva?? Too funny. Gotta admit, I fell for the name change AGAIN!
utr July 23, 2011 at 02:39 AM
To answer your question, if I were a restaurateur your damned right I'd go for a license. A restaurant has a much better chance of survival with booze then without. A mainstream eatery such as PJ's or Applebees probably works on less then 10% margin for food and maybe 50-60% margin on booze. If you don't have booze and you want to stay competitve you have to do alot more covers a night then a place that sells a $4 Coors Lite (that probably costs less then a $1 including the cost to wash the glass its served in)
Ginger Hayes July 23, 2011 at 02:43 AM
I hear you UTR but trust me. The mall can't be saved by liquor. We just need to change the conversation from the mall to allowing expanded restaurant services in all properly zoned areas of town like Young Ave or Camden Ave strip center. The question should be about alcohol not saving the mall. The mall has reinvented itself several times. It will never compete with Cherry Hill.
utr July 23, 2011 at 03:36 AM
Ginger, you nailed it on the head cafes in the Lenola Business District could revitalize that whole area. Maybe a rebirth like Haddon Ave in Haddon Twp/Collingswood
Front Desk July 23, 2011 at 12:07 PM
What does that do for me? What exactly is the mall Property looking for? Just "fine dining" like an applebees or hotels with liquor restaurant , gaming, night clubs like kofP mall? What's the strategy ? If competed with utr and preit for a license can I do whatever with it? Be creative right, or only a restaurant with liquor?
Front Desk July 23, 2011 at 12:42 PM
Utr- you stance sounds like what others have said the mall owner Preit is for Preit . It doesn't appear moorestown would get any significant return or perhaps negative with liquor licenses.

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