Posted on | April 1, 2013
Written by | Paul Santelle
NJLSA Vineland Effort Results in Victory for Local Retailers!
After several months of negotiations, and on the eve of filing a lawsuit with the city of Vineland, the NJLSA succeeded in brokering a deal that led to the city backing down from its plan to issue a new ‘44’ license and change a longstanding local ordinance prohibiting the comingled sale of alcoholic beverages with another mercantile business.
Thankfully, and with the support of local retailers and the AARA, we were able to negotiate a deal for the ShopRite redevelopers to buy an existing pocket license as well as to agree to a floor-plan that would accommodate to the existing ordinance without the use of a common egress between the proposed grocery store and adjoining, but separate, liquor store. Due to the increased number of grocery stores purchasing liquor licenses, the NJLSA is committed to insuring the stability of our marketplace.
In the end, several key issues were resolved, including an agreement of a liquor store layout (template) that the NJLSA will be incorporating into our forthcoming “Level Playing Field” legislation. We are also working on a legislative fix to prevent any licensing authority from issuing a new ‘44’ license when there are already an excessive # of ‘32’ in combination with ‘44’ and 33’ licenses.
Cherry Hill Approves Questionable Change…
While we were wrapping up our efforts in Vineland, the new Mayor in Cherry Hill rushed to change an existing “stand alone” ordinance that required all distribution licenses in the township to be in free-standing buildings. As recently as 2011, Wegmans gave up their challenge to this ordinance that was defended by the same township council and council president who just passed the new change. A change that was being done prior to the issuance of a new ‘44’ license the township plans to put out to public bid by the time you are reading this article.
The NJLSA, along with a group of local retailers, met with the mayor and pleaded with him to not change the ordinance which would allow for commingle operations of a licensed premises within a grocery store. To our dismay, the mayor suggested that “maybe it is time to sell your licenses” as he defended his concern for helping traditional grocery stores in Cherry Hill to be more competitive with other grocery stores in the area.
In spite of numerous objections to the proposed ordinance change by licensees and concerned citizens, the new ordinance passed without the mayor or council president being present. However, there is catch: the language of the ordinance that established a 15,000-square-foot minimum for a grocery store to operate a license, and we have been advised that such a requirement is unconstitutional. The NJLSA has asked the ABC to step in and take issue with this obvious act of discrimination, which is the first time such a restriction has ever been placed on a ‘44’ license premise.
Asian American Retailers Association Acknowledgements
The NJLSA trustees and board of directors, congratulates Vipul Patel for being elected as the new president of the Asian American Retailers Association (AARA). We also look forward to working with Amrish Vakil of the AARA, who will replace Sunny Patel as the designated AARA representative to the NJLSA. Sunny Patel has pledged that he will continue to work with the NJLSA as an independent retailer. Our industry is indebted to the tireless work of the AARA and their sustained efforts to support our industry through their extensive network of members and affiliates.
Clarification from Last Month’s Message from NJLSA
Last month, when writing about the two-license challenge legislation, we incorrectly wrote that “the state-based Wakefern group, ShopRite, the largest state employer and provider of grocery products has gotten off the neutral bench and is now opposing this legislation.” What we should have said was “independent ShopRite co-op members (who are licensees) have been told by cooperative parent Wakefern Food Corporation, that they can oppose it as independent licensees, even though Wakefern will continue to remain neutral on this legislation.” ShopRite Beverages Inc., a division of Wakefern Food Corporation, is a member of the NJLSA board of trustees, representing the independent ShopRite co-op members operating liquor licenses.