Council opposes winery’s request
ABC to rule on whether winery can sell bottles in BYOB
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POINT PLEASANT BEACH — During Tuesday night’s meeting of the borough council, the governing body moved to send a letter to the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control opposing a winery license application, saying that such a license, if granted, would violate a municipal ordinance.
Domenico Winery, of Toms River and San Carlos, California, has applied to the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control [ABC] for a license to sell wine at Prime 13 restaurant in Point Pleasant Beach.
John Annunziata, of Domenico Winery, said other wineries have registered with the state to set up similar restaurant salesrooms for their wines. According to Mr. Annunziata, the law allowing only New Jersey wineries to sell under a winery license was amended in 2012 to allow for out-of-state wineries, as well.
He said Domenico is applying for other licenses around New Jersey, and that the state allows a maximum of 16 licenses per winery.
The winery already has such arrangements with Bistro 1051 in Clark, Anna’s in Summit, Basilico in Millburn, Gaetano’s in Red Bank, Porfirio’s Italian Market in Hamilton and Palazzo in Montclair, among others.
If the out-of-state winery license is granted by the ABC, Prime 13 would remain a bring-your-own-bottle [BYOB] restaurant, but would offer Domenico’s wines by the bottle to its patrons as an added service, Mr. Annunziata said.
“If you forgot to run out to the liquor store, or you didn’t realize it was a BYOB, you can buy a bottle of wine,” Mayor Vincent Barrella said.
The license does not allow wine to be sold by the glass, Mr. Annunziata said. Wine would be offered by the bottle, and wine tastings would also be permitted with the license.
There is a borough ordinance on the books that prohibits any type of liquor license to be situated within 500 feet of another liquor license, according to borough attorney Kevin Riordan. Prime 13 is located within 500 feet of 709 restaurant, which currently holds a liquor license, he said.
Therefore, Domenico’s winery license application would, if approved, violate Point Pleasant Beach’s ordinance.
While the borough can approve or deny some types of liquor licenses, it has no official say over this type of license, officials said. The ABC has the power to either grant or deny the out-of-state winery license for Prime 13 to Domenico.
“In contrast to some other licenses, it is the ABC’s call, not ours,” Mr. Riordan said.
Councilman Stephen Reid said he was concerned about the effect of such a license on other businesses in town.
“What I’m concerned about is there’s people out there who’ve spent a lot of money on licenses, and it seems to me that you don’t need to,” he said. “Why don’t other people do that — sell wine — instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a liquor license? Why doesn’t every restaurant do exactly what you’re doing there?”
Mr. Annunziata said other restaurants may purchase a more expensive liquor license, as opposed to a winery license, in order to serve patrons a full complement of alcoholic beverages.
“This is just wine,” he said.
Councilman William Mayer said, although the borough does not want to “encourage more and more liquor establishments,” he does not believe the ABC granting a winery license would do so.
Mr. Riordan said the ABC wrote a letter to the borough asking if it wanted to comment on the application before a decision is made.
“Would they [the ABC] give this license if it’s in violation of a local municipality’s ordinance,” Councilman Bret Gordon asked.
“Traditionally, no, but they can,” Mr. Riordan said.
The council ultimately agreed to respond to the ABC by opposing the license on the grounds that it would violate a borough ordinance.
“We would have to essentially violate our own proximity ordinance if we endorsed this,” Mayor Barrella said.
New Jersey ABC public information officer Zach Hosseini said there was no specific timeframe for the agency’s decision on Domenico’s application, as “every licensing process takes a different amount of time.”
“There’s a lot of due diligence we do to make sure everything is the way it should be,” he said.
Mr. Hosseini said the winery will have to submit plans for the salesroom, as well as a detailed explanation of the agreement between it and the restaurant.
“There are a lot of planning documents they have to show us about how the accommodation is going to work,” he said.
Mr. Hosseini confirmed out-of-state wineries are only allowed 16 wine salesrooms, or “outlets,” as the ABC refers to them. The outlets can only be located at BYOB locations.
The next meeting of the borough council is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 5, at 7:30 p.m.