LITTLE SILVER– On Nov. 3 borough voters will get a chance to say if they want to have their own neighborhood watering hole for the very first time. Voters are being asked to cast their ballots for a binding referendum when they go to the polls on Election Day to allow the borough to have what by most accounts has never had: a restaurant with a bar.
The referendum, if approved by voters, would allow for one retail consumption liquor license in the borough.
The governing body has been contemplating the matter for about a year, after a borough resident had approached them about considering issuing the license.
That resident, Westwood Road’s Matt Kelly, is interested in opening what he described last November as a family style restaurant and bar. Kelly, who runs a construction contracting business, had said at that point, it was his intention to build something akin to Rumson’s Molly Maguire’s.
Kelly, who has been active in the borough’s recreation committee, said he envisions some place that families and friends can continue their socializing following sports and other community events.
Kelly continues to be interested in accomplishing this, taking it upon himself to collect the needed petition signatures to secure the referendum initiative, according to Mayor Robert C. Neff, Jr.
Neff said the council conducted a special public meeting in recent months because, “I thought it was an important issue that could span generations here,” said Neff.
The response from the public was “A number of people were for it. They thought it would add character to the town,” Neff observed. And while there wasn’t much in the way of opposition, “a fair number of residents said we really should have a referendum,” Neff added.
Fortuitously enough, given Little Silver had a topic decades ago, research by the borough attorney discovered it would have to be handled with a referendum to issue a consumption license, according to the mayor. In 1981 the same referendum was roundly defeated, by a 2-to1 margin, Neff said research showed. At that time the former Farmhouse restaurant had sought the license, which was rejected by voters, borough attorney Meghan Bennett Clark had said previously.
But should voters support it this time, the council has been researching and working on drafting an ordinance that would layout the restrictions and requirements – such as operating hours, whether to permit live music, the development zone where it would be permitted, and the like – for whoever would eventually gets the liquor license, “to make sure it’s done properly,” said Neff, “something rational and reasonable.”
Any liquor license would ultimately be available through a public auction and require background checks on the perspective owners.
According to the state Division of Alcohol Beverage Control, municipalities currently are limited to issuing one license per 3,000 residents. Given Little Silver now has a little less than 6,000, one license would be its limit at this point, Neff explained.
Little Silver has one package goods license held by Little Silver Bottle Shop, 497 Prospect Ave. Another is held by A&P supermarket, 507 Prospect Ave., which is permitted to sell unrefrigerated beer and wine.
To the best of anyone’s knowledge Little Silver has never permitted a consumption license. “I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten a real good reason for that, except for that’s the way it’s always been,” Neff acknowledged, “and fair enough.”
“I’m not real sure what the opposition has been,” he continued. “I do understand the concerns out there,” which he assured would be addressed in the eventual ordinance should it get that far.
And should voters again reject the proposal “It’s no longer an issue,” Neff noted.
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