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Bennigan's May Want Township Space, But No Licenses Are Available

T.G.I. Friday's and Chickie's and Pete's also wanted to open locations in Cinnaminson, but state laws prohibit more liquor licenses.

A sign in the window of an empty storefront in the Shoppes along Route 130 says the building is an approved storefront for a Bennigan’s location.

But the popular neighborhood pub won’t be calling Cinnaminson its home any time soon. Nor will any other restaurant that serves alcohol.

The township is out of liquor licenses—for both consumption and sales—so unless an owner wants to sell theirs off, Cinnaminson needs a major population boost to nab another.

“Over the years,” said Deputy Mayor Anthony Minniti, who serves as the director of economic development, “we’ve had Friday’s, Chili’s, Ruby Tuesday, Chickie’s and Pete’s, and PJ Whelihan’s [express an interest in coming to Cinnaminson]. The only reason is we don’t have liquor licenses.”

The sign is in the window of a storefront next to Sleepy's near the Shoppes in Cinnaminson. It says the restaurant—once popular in New Jersey—is making a comeback. 

According to the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), a municipality may issue one consumption license for every 3,000 of its population and one distribution license for every 7,500 of its population.

With Cinnaminson’s population around 15,000, the five consumption licenses belong to Whistlers Inn, Jug Handle Inn, Hathaway’s, The Merion and Riverton Country Club. The two distribution licenses belong to The Wine Cellar and ShopRite.

However there is a way to get another license—and Minniti has suggested it to his contact with Bennigan’s. It’s called a concessionaire’s permit and if the township owns a property, they can be the license owners.

“We don’t know if it would survive a legal challenge,” Minniti said. “But it’s something that [can be looked into], if they want to do the legal research into it.”

A representative with Tower Hospitality, LLC, a group that owns and operates several dining and lodging properties in southern New Jersey, was not reached by press time.

Because of these state restrictions, Minniti said he’s been fighting for legislation to change some of the controls the ABC has.

“Whenever I’m at economic forums, with Assembly people or senators, I always talk to them about how Cinnaminson would love to take the lead and promote changes that would make it easier for liquor licenses,” Minniti said.

It’s caused the township to be more creative with what they try to bring into Cinnaminson with popular businesses like Sonic Drive-In and Speed Raceway.

“I have tried since the beginning to affect some sort of legislative change,” Minniti said. “It’s very, very frustrating.”

He also said the township has tried to argue that the Merion and the Riverton Country Club don’t really qualify under ABC restrictions because they aren’t open to the general public. But the ABC hasn’t let up its ruling.

“Ultimately, where the rules get bogged down politically, is the value of these licenses are such that it’s an asset,” he said.

If an existing alcohol owner wants to sell their license, that would open some of these chain restaurants that sell alcohol to buy it up.

“Obviously, they are not doing that,” Minniti said.

Licenses cost anywhere from $750,000 to more than $1 million, Minniti said. In Moorestown, mall owners PREIT (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust) set up two subsidiary companies—Moorestown Beverage I and Moorestown Beverage II—and bought four licenses at $1 million each. State laws restrict an entity to two licenses at a time.

A final option to bring a license to the township is if a hotel opened in Cinnaminson. Townships can issue permits to hotels and get a license associated with it. 

Phil October 09, 2012 at 12:07 PM
I thought the same thing T Jones. I know other states have "temp licenses" that are used at places like the Merion and Riverton Country Club when a banquet or reception of some kind wants to serve alcohol. It's up to the food vendor or registering party to obtain it from the municipality. That might be more appropriate to the Merion, I don't remember if RCC has a sitting bar/restaurant or not.
judie October 09, 2012 at 12:36 PM
I don't understand the state law about how many liquor licenses a town can have. The article states one license for every 3,000 people. Riverside has only 8,000 people and has at least 8 licenses that I can think of.
Ric October 09, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Whatever course the township and ABC decides, it must be fair to the owners of the Jug Handle, Whistler's and Hathaways who paid huge premiums to obtain their licenses because of the exclusivity. If the township were to find a way to increase the number of liquor licenses In Cinnaminson, without a population increase of 3,000, that would illegally reduce the resale values of the existing licenses. I hope an accommodation with the owners of the existing licenses can be found. I agree with T Jones and Minniti that two of the licenses are owned by facilities which are not accessible by the general public. In essence there is one liquor license per every 5,000 residents. I suspect the ABC might be persuaded to issue more licenses if support would also come from the five existing license owners. I am sure the township has given the owners of the country club and the Merion plenty of favors in the past – after all isn’t that what politics of Cinnaminson does best - and it is time for them to repay the favors. Either they lend support for more licenses or those two institutions open up to the general public. As a side note, at the most I have a drink or two a month but I am likely not to have that drink at any of the existing location in Cinnaminson. So I would truly welcome a nicer drinking establishment into this town. The only way that will happen is for the township to work with the owners of the existing licenses.
Deborah Hilton October 09, 2012 at 01:03 PM
I agree with the comments regarding the licenses for the private venues. There should be distinction. And I vote for Chickie & Pete's!!
Chris Eaton October 09, 2012 at 01:11 PM
I hope something can be accomplished here. The number of vacant buildings along our small strecth of Route 130 is mind boggling. The township certainly needs to explore ALL options in regards to filling these vacancies. A quick drive through the Cinnaminson stretch of 130 shows more "pay-by-the-hour" motels and vacant store fronts. Start to attract more businesses to Cinnaminson and then to you start to attract more residents to help fill all the vacant homes as well.
Mike October 09, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Im with you Deb, Chickie and Pete's would be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious !! Yes I just said that :)
Den October 09, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Just make it happen.!!!!!!!!! ITS GOOD FOR OUR TOWNSHIP. We now have Sweet Water Cafe ,Very Nice and very needed for our town, So lets keep it going. If we can pay top notch Taxes , we should be able to eat in top notch quality places, and keep the money here. NOT IN PHILA ,CHERRY HILL and soon MOORESTOWN.
Jill Cavalier October 09, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Why don't they just go to Moorestown? Moorestown still has one additional license and the mall has 3 that, as far as the public is aware, aren't yet taken, and East Gate has one that they havent given to anyone yet. Would love to see Bennigan's in Moorestown!
Christina Paciolla (Editor) October 09, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Liquor licenses in Riverside were issued before the state's population restrictions so they were grandfathered in.
cinn city October 09, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Yea Chickies and Petes so we can all get our food at varying times
Cinnaminson Mom October 09, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Thanks for checking into that Christina.
Phil October 09, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Because then they'd have to deal with Moorestown politics which makes Cinnaminson's look professional and competent in comparison and PREIT who owns the 4 in the mall and the mall itself. 2 others are for east gate and only one has been talked about at the Friendly's site. They also still don't know if the restrictions to that SBC will hold-up in court should another challenge on its restrictiveness be made.
jeff October 09, 2012 at 04:04 PM
stop holding back cinnaminson and allow more licenses....im all for chickie and petes too!!!!!!! and how bout bring back hooters!!!!!!:)
John October 09, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Ric, U do know alot about the stuff that goes on here, from politics to drinking thats good, and u share it with everyone good and bad....I commend U on your knowledge to bad it will do no good....
Maury October 09, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Actually no John, Ric doesn't know a lot about what goes on here. The editor has to frequently correct him. Just because he sounds good, it means you believe him? Nowhere in the article did it say the current owners were going to give theirs up. Miniti even said that would never happen. The Abc doesn't just change for Cinnaminson. The point of this article is these places cannot come into town.
Christina Paciolla (Editor) October 09, 2012 at 05:20 PM
I'm not really sure if this is a serious comment or not but Jeff, if you read the entire article, you will find out that Cinnaminson cannot allow more licenses. That was the entire point of the article. Folks this is the problem with not reading the article and just reading the comments. Stop and think about how ridiculous that is. This is not a blog. We are a professional news organization.
judie October 09, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Thank you Christina. I could never understand the amount of bars in that tiny town. I also would like to commend you on your articles and wish too people would read the whole article first before shooting off their comments. :-)
John October 09, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Actually Maury, I do not believe everything thats written nor do I believe everything thats printed....I do believe I said I commend you on his knowledge and also said it will do no good, if the state controls the licenses we can wish all we want but that does not make it come true, its just like the car issue, how can one say it was in the budget and then say they did not know all the facts.....oh well, thats life everywhere..
John October 09, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Yes Christina, its true about people not reading the articles but thats the way of life in this country....Its like the articles about red lights cameras and the charger issue, everyone puts there 2 cents into the comment section....Reporting items is a hard issue without people asking for a Hooters....Good luck...thanks for a job well done...
Ric October 09, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Actually, Maury, I do know what I am talking about and you do not. And please get off your soapbox. Both you and Christina need to reread what was reported: "However there is a way to get another license—and Minniti has suggested it to his contact with Bennigan’s. It’s called a concessionaire’s permit and if the township owns a property, they can be the license owners." So despite what you blustered there is a way. By the way, I highly respect Christina’s credentials as a journalist but that does not mean she is exempt from mistakes. For example, it was quoted in the August 8th’s story regarding Safety Director King driving a township car home: “Officials put the extra costs associated with driving to and from work at around $2,500 a year” and “say the only cost associated with that is fuel.” I responded that the cost for operating this vehicle would be much higher and I was criticized. Yet, I was right. Thank you very much. I am expressing my opinion like everyone else and if something is not true, I will point it out just like everyone else. And I really don’t give a damn if you do or do not like – that includes under any whatever name you use at Patch. Of course, I might be impressed if you share with us the credentials that make you think you are so smart. Perhaps you get your smarts from being a political insider.
Ric October 09, 2012 at 07:21 PM
@John. Thanks.
Christina Paciolla (Editor) October 09, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Thank you to the both of you.
noyb October 09, 2012 at 08:40 PM
I think its great that buisnesses like that express intrest. Its up to our elected officials to figure out a way around this technicality. Its silly. Cinnaminson has almost nothing like that here. When ever my wife and i decide to head out for dinner with the kids we NEVER stay in Cinnaminson... I would love to see any of the mentioned resturants in Ctown.
Bill Pozniak October 09, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Someone please set me straight here! Are u saying that theoretically, all of the establishments that own licenses to serve could go private? If that's the case, it's time to open up a new can of worms!
T Jones October 11, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Maybe we should all show up at RCC one day and order a few drinks to use the township's liquor license. I'd love to see their reaction.
Ric October 11, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Great idea! I will drink to that! Schedule a day and time, and I will be there.
John October 13, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Hey Ric, go to shop rite and buy a 6 pack if you need a drink.....
Jay October 16, 2012 at 02:58 AM
@ Cinnaminson Mom, I agree with you on the amounts of licenses, it seem that towns like Riverside and Maple Shade have a lot of licenses based on population
Alyson P Merget October 24, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I'm in!
Alyson P Merget October 24, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Something's just not right if a private club has dibs on one of the few liquor licenses available to the whole town. We are the citizens and voters here. How do we change that?

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