Alcohol farm

Liquor license transfer fails in Cape May | Local News

CAPE MAY — A million-dollar liquor license transfer proposal before the Cape May City Council failed this week due to a lack of votes after a long discussion.

With one member absent, two votes for and one against, Cape May Mayor Zack Mullock initially thought the measure passed, but city attorney Christopher Gillin-Schwartz said the resolution required three votes, a majority in the five-member council.

Mullock is a neighbor of the property and had decided to abstain. After Tuesday’s vote, he stuck to that decision.

The license was to be transferred from The Merion Inn to a new company to permit the sale of liquor to guests of The Southern Mansion on Washington Street. According to Marcus Karavan, an attorney representing the plaintiff, the license was only used to sell drinks to guests at special events or to “guests with room keys” staying at the hostel.

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Others couldn’t come in and order a drink, he said.

The liquor license for The Merion Inn on Decatur Street became available when the building was purchased by the owners of the Mad Batter on Jackson Street, according to Mullock, who said the two businesses, adjoining the back, are now operating under one license.

But state laws prevent The Southern Mansion from acquiring the license because owner Barbara Wilde also owns Willow Creek Winery in West Cape May, Mullock said. State law prohibits someone from simultaneously holding two types of licenses to sell alcohol, in this case a winery farm license and a full license.

His daughter, Hamilton Wilde, founded the New Jersey Farmers Cooperative Group LLC, taking the name of a nonprofit organization of which Barbara Wilde is the director.

Documentation provided to the city council indicates that the South Mansion is owned by the Bray Family Partnership, in which Hamilton Wilde has no ownership stake, while Barbara Wilde has no ownership or stake in the New Jersey Farmers Cooperative Group LLC.

As proposed, the new LLC would sell liquor in the Southern Mansion, leasing the area within the other business.

“It’s complicated,” Mullock said Wednesday.

It was complicated enough that the main concern expressed by city council members was that the matter should have been taken to the zoning board for further consideration. Loraine Baldwin, the only one to vote against the transfer, said she believed the issue necessitated a usage gap for the Southern Mansion, although city zoning officials ruled that was not the case. .

Council member Shaine Meier, a vote for approval, also said he would have liked the zoning board to provide input.

Council discussed the issue for more than two hours on Tuesday, after delaying a decision at an earlier meeting.

“We were hoping for more information,” Mullock said.

Several neighbors spoke at the meeting, questioning the plan and its potential impact on their quality of life. Council member Stacy Sheehan, who did not attend the meeting, sent a message stating that she opposed the approval of the license transfer.

Council member Michael Yeager said the proposal could be an improvement. Le Manoir du Sud already hosts weddings and alcohol is served at most of these events. The end result could just be better trained bartenders at weddings and convenience for guests when there isn’t an event going on.

Karavan said larger weddings would take place at the Willow Creek winery. At the meeting, he said the purchase price for the license under the sales agreement was over $1 million.

Contacted after the vote, Karavan declined to comment on the decision.

Speaking to council on Tuesday, Karavan said his clients had agreed to several concessions, both at the request of the city and neighbors ahead of meetings.

“We met with the residents of Corgie Street. We have listened to their concerns and believe we have developed a plan that will work for everyone,” Karavan said. Corgie is a narrow one-way street parallel to Washington Street, home to the Southern Mansion’s closest neighbors.

According to the inn’s website, the sprawling building was built in 1863 as a private home, then used as a boarding house before falling into disrepair. The current owners began extensive renovations in 1994, and the project was completed in 1997.

Mullock said he decided to abstain from voting because he is a close enough neighbor that he received notice if the proposal required a waiver of use.

This led to the 2-1 vote. Even if the final vote had been delayed, it likely would have been 2-2, with Sheehan’s declared opposition. After the vote, the board took a brief recess for Mullock to discuss with Gillin-Schwartz whether he should abstain. He decided to stick with his decision rather than change it based on the outcome.

In May, the Merion Inn announced that it would not be opening this summer. The building has operated as a restaurant since 1885 and as a Merion Inn since 1906, according to a story published by the former owners, who said they did not sell the business or the name.

In its place at 106 Decatur will be the Cricket Club.

Contact Bill Barlow:


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