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New Providence Moves Cautiously to Sell Liquor License

Mike Neavill

Monday, October 21, 2013 • 8:53am

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – For the second year in a row, the borough is once again marketing a liquor-by-the-drink consumption license that it hopes will spur economic development in the downtown business district.

“Our focus has been trying to attract a new restaurant, the right kind of restaurant,” Mayor J. Brooke Hern said.

Hern said the borough’s role was to serve as a facilitator bringing prospective restaurants and landlords together to discuss mutual opportunities.

At one point, discussions became serious to the point of exchanging letters of intent concerning the former Chen’s location in the Village Shopping Center. Ultimately, Hern said that deal fell through and a different restaurant, Dim Sum Villa, according to a sign on the building, will occupy the space.

“The Chen’s site was a great opportunity but it just didn’t happen,” Hern said.

The mayor allowed that the purchase of a $400,000 plus liquor license probably didn’t meet the business model of existing established restaurants.

Instead, the borough is actively marketing to other restaurant owners that may be anxious to establish a New Providence presence and break the liquor-by-the-drink barrier. While the former Chen’s property is now out of play, Hern said other locations and some lots could potentially be re-developed.

The mayor said that through the use of liquor licenses, the borough was looking to create an environment much like that of Summit or Westfield that would also provide an economic lift to non-alcohol serving restaurants. “We could end up with a nice mix of restaurants," he added.

In November of 2011, residents overwhelmingly approved a referendum by a two-to-one margin to allow the borough to auction four liquor consumption licenses. Enacting a strict ordinance, the borough has since moved cautiously seeking a perfect fit.

“The bottom line is we’re in no hurry. We’re going to take our time and get the right restaurant into New Providence as the first auction winner,” Hern said. He added that the borough was not “desperate” to sell a license at this time.

Borough Administrator Doug Marvin said prospective licensees would have to file with the borough by Nov. 12. On Nov. 25, the borough will publish a list of pre-qualified bidders with bids due on Dec. 16.

In early January 2014, the Borough Council would adopt a resolution awarding the license.

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