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New Providence Will No Longer Be 'Dry'

The amended ordinance introduced Monday night sets course for borough to grant first liquor license in December.

When a New Providence resident wants to have some holiday cheer next December, they should be able to imbibe, thanks to the borough council's formal introduction of an amended Alcoholic Beverages ordinance Monday night.

The ordinance clears the way to break away from the borough's Puritan roots and approve the first liquor license in the town founded as Turkey in 1720. Councilman Bob Robinson outlined a six-month timeline for the sale of the first license, which they expect to be announced Dec. 10. 

Last November, a binding referendum that asked residents if the borough should allow for the sale of consumption liquor licenses . The ordinance, as it stands now, only allows for the retail sale of liquor without on-premise consumption. Amendments to this ordinance will outline regulations for both the sale and on-premise consumption of liquor.

It took six months for council members to “produce a quality ordinance that we think is going to stand the test of time,” said Robinson, who is a member of the Economic Development Committee that set the timeline. “We are going to take our time. We have been given four gifts by the residents of New Providence for these liquor licenses. The first one kind of sets the tone for the process. So I think [we], the Mayor and Council, will wisely take our time and do a good job.”

The six-month timeline for the sale of the first license was made by the Economic Development Committee and announced by Robinson as follows:

May 15 – June 11: Seek comments from stakeholders. “We’re going to ask people, ‘Are you interested in doing this?’ We’re going to try and learn from some of their comments," Robinson said. "We want to make sure our ordinance stands the test of time. We want to make sure it brings quality restaurants to New Providence.”

June 11: Public Hearing on amended ordinance. “That public hearing is your opportunity to tell us, do you agree with it?" Robinson said. "Do you like the ordinance? Do you like what it says? Do you like what we’ve done so far? We’re willing to republish the ordinance and set an adoption date for July 9 if necessary." Robinson said the council is open to comments from residents and business owners.

May 15 – June 15: Issue RFP (request for proposal) to engage a commercial realtor to market this product. The realtor would look at open commercial space in New Providence and market it to prospective restaurant owners, Robinson said. This is a complex issue and the borough needs help from a realtor who can put New Providence in a position of strength.

Sept. 10: Council meeting to determine minimum bid price and bid process. Bidding process options include a sealed auction, a live auction or an online auction,

Sept. 18: Informal meeting with interested bidders. Robinson said each prospective bidder would receive a bid packet and learn more about the licenses for sale. Those attending that information session will include: Borough Attorney Carl Woodward, Borough Planner Jeff Janota, Construction Official Keith Lynch, Economic Development Liaisons and Councilmen Robert Munoz and Bob Robinson, and Mayor J. Brooke Hern.

Sept. 15 and 22: Publish advertisement of bid.

Oct. 15: Applications are due from bidders.

Oct. 22: A list of pre-qualified bidders will be published.

Dec. 3: Bids received will be narrowed down to two.

Dec. 10: Council hopes to adopt a resolution awarding the license.

Council sent the proposed amendments to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control for review in early February, Robinson said the council plans to send the final ordinance to the ABC for final approval.

Before the proposed ordinance was sent to the ABC, , who each made suggestions with the type of desired establishments in mind. 

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