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Council Gets 'Food for Thought' on Liquor Licenses

The township attorney laid out council's options, but they haven't made a decision yet.

Members of township council met Wednesday to hash out their options after a , but won’t make any decisions until Monday at the earliest.

Council met behind closed doors for roughly an hour while solicitor Thomas Coleman brought them up to speed on the decision rendered by Superior Court Judge Ronald Bookbinder last month. Ruling on a , Bookbinder shot down a township ordinance aimed at restricting the issuance of licenses to the mall, and also invalidated the second referendum question.

Township manager Scott Carew said Coleman presented council with various options for how to move forward during the executive session.

“He basically gave council food for thought,” said Carew.

Neither Carew nor any of the council members—or Coleman, for that matter—were inclined to go into detail on what those options are or which way council might be leaning.

However, it’s safe to say council’s options are limited to the following: appeal Bookbinder’s decision, file a motion for reconsideration (which the judge said he’d entertain), or amend the ordinance regulating liquor licenses to be less restrictive.

The latter course of action could be met with some resistance, , assuming Question 2 was enforceable and alcohol would be confined to the mall property.

Resident Monique Begg raised this concern when she addressed council prior to the closed-door session, suggesting the township should resubmit the referendum to the voters.

“It’s only fair,” she said. “People voted with a clear understanding that we needed to vote for (questions) one and two.”

Coleman replied there was no need to put the referendum before voters again, since Bookbinder’s ruling made it clear Question 1 was still “valid and enforceable.”

Coleman also pointed out Bookbinder brought by resident/attorney Bill Cox last year. .

Following Wednesday's executive session, Coleman said he and Carew would work together to “craft an appropriate course of action as to how (the township) should proceed” and present it to council at their regular meeting Monday.

When asked whether he and Coleman would present a menu of options or a single recommendation to council, Carew said that hadn’t been decided yet.

Though Coleman said he believed PREIT, owner of the Moorestown Mall, was preparing a motion for reconsideration of Bookbinder’s ruling, Carew explained that PREIT’s plans wouldn’t play any role in the township’s decision.

“Our action will be taken independent of PREIT,” said Carew.

Town council meets at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the IT room at .

Townie September 06, 2012 at 10:23 AM
There is a difference between having to do something and having the integrity to do the right thing. The expansion from the mall to the SRC is pretty small, but it's not what people voted on. Someone (like the guy with all the answers now) should have provided the advice last year, and not allowed town to vote on an illegal referendum. As is, this clearly looks like an inside job. I think they would have gotten the same result last year if they would have done things right the first time....just wasting more time and money being too political. This isn't a groundbreaking judgement by Bookbinder....a LOT of people saw this coming. Apparently Coleman and counsel didn't care; they wanted the result regardless of the ethics and legality of their means to that end.
Bryan September 06, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Reading this article, I think ms begg and townie make a good point, shouldn't this liquor referendum go back to a vote? Were the voters lead on to believe they had to vote for both to stay only at the mall?
Townie September 06, 2012 at 12:42 PM
One additional thought....if it comes to doing over, I would think the Lenola Town Center (LTC) Zone is a possible issue to be addressed. They already have restaurants (like the SRC), so (based on no knowledge of the zoning for the LTC) there is the potential for someone to create an eatery that would benefit from a liquor license. If nothing else, it would increase the value of the property there just because of the potential. There are second-hand scenarios in the future that should be considered now.
Lenola Rules September 06, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Don't think so, there are no SRC zones in Lenola.
Bill September 06, 2012 at 01:08 PM
"Were the voters lead on to believe they had to vote for both to stay only at the mall?" No. Question 1 simple allowed for the sale of liquor in Moorestown at restaurants. Question 2 restricted it to the SRC zones & the Mall in particular. If anything, you could argue that voters were lead to believe that Q2 would hold up in a court of law. But the possibilty existed it wouldn't and the licenses could be sold to other restaurants within any SRC zone. For anyone that thinks Q1 should be put back to vote (which it won't). Did you not consider that Q2 could be defeated by vote thus allowing liquor licenses to sold throughout town ? Did you also not consider the "spot zoning" part would be shot down in court ? If it concerned you that much you should have vote NO to #1.
John September 06, 2012 at 01:23 PM
I always believed that both referendums should have been combined into one without a severability clause. Meaning if one part was ruled illegal, the other part could not stand on its own. You don't need a law degree to see this coming. What does Coleman have to say about this?
Red Alert September 06, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Clearly, whoever wins in November needs to send Coleman packing. The man has plunged our towns into deep political divides over issues that everyone could have foreseen. As for liquor, open it up to the entire SRC zone. It's money for the town (and it's money we need)
Elizabeth September 06, 2012 at 01:38 PM
What do you want to bet that Coleman advises Council to appeal? $$$$$
Rob Scott (Editor) September 06, 2012 at 02:05 PM
mtwnres, You make some valid points, but Question 2 did not restrict liquor licenses to the SRC zone—just to the mall. The wording was pretty clear. The referendum states licenses would be available only to bidders "located on the same tax lot as an indoor shopping mall in the SRC zoning district," and that a license could not be "transferred to any other use, either within the SRC zoning district or in any other zoning district."
Bill September 06, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Rob, got it. I guess the question now is, will council impose a restriction to just the SRC zone ? Hoepfully they will and that would keep people happy. And as I mentioned above, you wote in your FAQ article: Q. What happens if Question 1 passes and Question 2 fails? A. Then, ostensibly, liquor licenses could be used anywhere in town. This scenario is possible, given the number of people who will vote “No” on both, and “Yes” on 1 and “No” on 2. Council could impose a restriction (such as that described in Question 2) on its own. You stated for anyone to read. So if anyone based their vote on the idea that Q2 could not fail, shame on them. The possibilty was there. BTW - doesn't Bookbinder live in Moorestown ? If so, why was he the presiding Judge ? Conflict of interest anyone.
HomeBrew September 06, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Dine on This: In the 2012 Municipal Budget, near the front [p3b(2)] is a page entitled "Structural Budget Imbalances." First on the list, designated with a checkmark as "Revenue at Risk," is the nearly $400K in anticipated revenues from the sale of liquor licenses. An extended delay in the receipt of liquor license revenues, like a do-over referendum or another lawsuit, could blow a $400K hole in this year's budget. http://www.moorestown.nj.us/filestorage/207/243/249/2260/466/2012_Municipal_Budget.pdf PS: Not sure what it means or if it's important, but did not find a "Structural Budget Imbalances" page in the previous years' budgets I've looked through.
Our Town September 06, 2012 at 03:32 PM
"Coleman replied there was no need to put the referendum before voters again, since Bookbinder’s ruling made it clear Question 1 was still “valid and enforceable." Read this as the classic bait and switch. Anyone with half a brain could see the challenge to #2 coming, but they also knew that a blanket 'allow liquor in Moorestown' would have never passed without the perception that it would be relegated to the nether regions of our city. All this means is that more of this coveted revenue will bleed into the legal system and not to city services. Well done legal eagles on your small scale fleecing of the town, well done. What's the next issue that can be legally exploited?
Rob Scott (Editor) September 06, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Readers, Regrettably, I forgot to include another option in the above poll: "Resubmit the referendum to voters." I apologize for the omission. I'm adding it now.
Ed Nice September 06, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Correct me if I am wrong but didnt the mall follow the rules propertly on how to get the questions on the ballot so we could vote and council had to put them on....what I dont get is if anyone with half a brain could have seen this coming why didnt these half brainers like cox sue to stop question #2 instead of question #1 last year and bring it to a stop? Let it go to all the SRC zones and get the extra million and help more businesses!
Our Town September 06, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Because the half brainers took the stinky bait and went after liquor leaving the real legal issue alone. Regarding the following of the rules, the town and the mall exploited the rules in order to bring up for vote an issue that was already struck down. The exploitation of those rules resulted in a split question, a ruse, a velvet glove meant to conceal the real intent, the proverbial lipstick on a pig. They all knew that that pig wouldn't sell without it and the challengers were played accordingly. In the end, this challenge only helps the town by making accessible more opportunities to sell licenses. I'd like to think someone was smart enough to calculate this out, but it probably happened more by accident.
Sour grapes September 06, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Took the bait that you knew was wrong but hoped it would be alright...HUH! five licenses have sold for over $5 million with probably another one to be sold shortly...how much of this as you put it "coveted revenue" has bled into the legal system and not services and what exactly is your problem with it anyway? Are you against alcohol entirely or want only at the mall? Would it kill anyone if the closed Acme that wont be a Trader Joes had a shiny new restaurant for all the new Virtua employees to get served OMG booze at?
Richard Hinchman September 06, 2012 at 08:41 PM
The judge also ruled that zoning cannot be established by referendum. Council needs to make a decision about alcohol zoning and follow proper legal procedure for once.
life time resident September 06, 2012 at 08:49 PM
I had always thought that PREIT said that the whole restaurant thing with alcohol was the ONLY way the mall would survive as a viable tax player. What I never understood was if that was the case, when it was shot down the first time how come PREIT didn’t try to pitch the whole restaurant idea in Mt. Laurel, only a few yards from the mall which would accomplish the same idea of bringing shoppers and diners to the same relative location....oh well, water under the bridge. But since we now have alcohol in Moorestown, what would be the issue of a wine store at the little Acme...maybe something similar to Total Wines or along those lines....they certainly have enough $$ for a license and could easily afford to put up enough bucks to have it rezoned...after all, money is what this is all about isn’t it? just a thought...
Townie September 06, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Our town....did you post this as LTR just to prove Ed wrong? Bravo. All of the people some of the time.....
Patricia White September 06, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Rob: please add it in the body of your article as well as in the reader survey so readers have the whole story.
Old Moorestown September 07, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Face it. Moorestown was duped. Moorestown was duped by the same old county Republican machine of Glenn Paulsen and Chris Russell. They were hired by PREIT to get council to do their bidding. Paulsen and Russell (also Jon Runyan's campaign mgr) made enormous amounts of money and we got screwed. From the party bosses to their puppets on Moorestown council, it was all taken care of. Now we have a mess, due to our solicitor and the council that hired him.
life time resident September 07, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Townie, Just for the record I am truly homegrown. I am 55 and went to Stanwick school, I remember the YAC, swimming at the CC for 10 cents, the gardens on Central ave, the car dealer on Chester ave and so on...
Our Town September 07, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Nope. I only ever post as "Our Town". I am not really for or against liquor in Moorestown, I am against the idiotic notion that a one time cash infusion via liquor licenses is the answer to all of Moorestown's woes. Will the license revenue help? Sure, in the short term, but unless the town addresses the spending/bonding problems, we will find ourselves in the same, sinking fiscal ship in a few years time, or about when contractors begin submitting overages and collecting their cut of the town hall.
life time resident September 07, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Our Town...I couldn't agree with you more. I't alwasy seemed to me to be a very shortsighted patch to a long term problem but I might add that it would be practically impossible to reverse, if needed. Since we now have it, we might as well do the right thing for Moorestown considering the long term. The mall unfortunately , has always been a second rate shopping center compared to other area malls...certainly PREIT has treated it that way and I don't really seeing any resturant changing that (I'd love it if it does). Lets face it, how many people really choose to go/not go to a particular resturant on the basis of do they have an alcohol license or not?
Rob Scott (Editor) September 07, 2012 at 04:06 PM
life time resident, I have several years experience working at a number of restaurants—both BYOs and those that serve alcohol—and speaking from experience I can tell you the atmosphere at an establishment that serves alcohol is very different from a BYOB, which is generally what makes the former far more popular than the latter. It's the atmosphere. The ability to sit and have a drink while you're waiting for your table, or just to sit at the bar and enjoy a cocktail by itself, with no meal. It may be surprising—given the markup on alcohol at some places—but people are willing to pay, and pay a lot, for that.
Our Town September 07, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Quite honestly, I don't even drink so a restaurant offering it or not makes no difference to me, but I understand that I may be in the minority and I understand that attraction may help the dismal ratables situation. What Moorestown needs is to take a hard look at the status of the town and its problems, to apply careful, long term planning, to address those problems, and begin rebuilding the prosperity of this town. We cannot continue to sink our heads in the sands of Money Magazine circa 2005 in the hopes that a one time designation of the best town will be enough to carry us back to greatness. Wasted money, wasted resources, leadership that at best, fails to listen to their constituents, at worst, outright schemes to fool them, the deteriorated main street that everyone is fearful to criticize, blight in plain sight that most are keen to pretend does not exist, these are all symptoms of a faltering town, faltering leadership, and failure to understand the issues, let alone making the tough decisions to address them.
Ed Nice September 07, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Own Town I have a problem understanding how you say leadership that fails to listen to their constituents. Don't you mean fails to listen to you? Our town council did elect to listen to their constituents. Problem is, it's not the side you agree with. Does that make council wrong. No, they took a side and decided to start and rebuild as you say some of the towns problems. Our fields are a big issue though some that don't use them don't seem to understand that. As I see it they are also trying to get town hall done. The delays are not on them but on the designers. First time around it was way over budget and all 5 elected to start over. Waste of money? Maybe, but they did as they were advised to do. Are they wrong??? No, not in my mind. I know you don't want the town hall and I personally don't think it should get started for another 2 years at best. But it is about what the majority wants in this town. All voices are heard but that doesn't mean the minority gets their way. You also say in one breath we need to get control of the spending/bonding problems, but then you say we need to rebuild and address the issues of this town. Well unless our town is playing the lottery the only way to pay for this stuff is to bond it to make it affordable with or with out a tax hike. And by the way under this town council spending is down not up. That is why the towns side of the taxes have stayed near neutral as possible.
Bill September 07, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Honestly, this is where I think Bookbinder screwed up in his ruling. Q2 doesn't restrict license sales to the Moorestown Mall (spot zoning) as Bookbinder says. "located on the same tax lot as an indoor shopping mall in the SRC zoning district" So it could be any mall built on any of the SRC zone lots. All that makes a mall ( legally defined) is multiple stores with an indoor walkway. And the second part states it can't be sold in other zones. At worst his rulling should have stopped the sale only to the mall. The second section restricting sales to SRC zone stores should have stood as that is certainly legal. But he never should have been the judge anyway. I wonder if he voted on the referendum ?
Cheap Seats alumnus September 09, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Well, a interesting thought would be to keep the booze on the other side of route 38? Any other thoughts ? Or route 38 and pleasant valley to mt laurel border?

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