You might think you'll be able to grab a cocktail at a borough restaurant in the next few months, but the borough administrator says nobody's popping a cork until late in the year — or early 2013.
Borough Administrator Doug Marvin said council members want to expedite the liquor-license ordinance but have to follow the letter of the law to finally end New Providence's standing as one of the last "dry" towns in the state.
“I know they’re not sitting on their hands, so to speak. My impression is they will try to move this along as quickly as possible,” Marvin said. “So optimistically, we could have something open in 2012 but I think probably, realistically, it would probably be the early part of next year.”
Ten days ago, council reviewed the proposed ordinance for the third time, made a few amendments to it, and borough attorney Carl Woodward sent it to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control for review.
“The ABC at the state apparently has to approve municipal ordinances that deal with liquor licenses,” Marvin explained. “So the intent was that following the last meeting of the council, our attorney would make the changes to the ordinance and send it down to the ABC for their review and concurrence, which he’s hoping will take about a month to get a response from.”
The ABC, however could make recommendations that would force the borough to amend it again.
“That ordinance would be presented to the council for introduction and they can either make any changes they want or not at that point, but I suspect what would happen is the borough attorney would create an ordinance for introduction that would be satisfactory to the ABC," he said. “The council then would simply need to concur with that and introduce the ordinance.”
Marvin said the public hearing on the ordinance would be advertised and the public hearing would take place at the following council meeting. He warned that more public hearings could follow.
"Quite frankly, if it takes a month to get the ordinance back from the ABC with their comments, we’re almost at the end of February," Marvin said. "So it would be March, probably April, by the time the ordinance is introduced,” he said. “Then you’re into May and the council has to start considering the process and what the minimum bid would be so even if we went out to bid on the license in June or July, and then they went through the process for building their restaurant, it could take a little bit of time. I would certainly hope the end result is worth the time invested.”
From there, it gets down to the price of the license and the conditions for anyone who will buy it. Marvin said he would expect this bid process would be similar to any other bid process in the borough, where council would set a date and time that bids would have to be submitted by and then the auction would be opened to the public.
“The ordinance that’s being reviewed now by the ABC talks about what would be required within the restaurant. Assuming that [the license holder] would be building the restaurant in a zone that permits restaurants, that shortens the review process,” Marvin explained. “If they wanted to seek a variance to build a restaurant outside of the zones that they are currently permitted, then it would take longer. If an existing restaurant wanted to simply expand to accommodate a bar or lounge area in accordance with this liquor license ordinance, that probably wouldn’t take that long.”