BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
What was supposed to be a financial boon for Montclair resulted in no takers in Montclair’s second round of bidding for its new $1 million liquor license.
The application process began Jan. 28 and closed out Feb. 11. The auction for accepted bidders planned for Feb. 28 was canceled, said Holly Maykow, Montclair’s coordinator of records, licensing and data.
“There were two interested parties, but the auction was canceled prior to any bids being submitted in accordance with the law. There were no bidders,” said Katya Wowk, the township’s communications director.
In July of last year, when the most recent estimate of Montclair’s population by the U.S. Census Bureau came to 39,277 — an increase of 0.77 percent attributable to the rise of multi-family developments — the town was officially eligible for its 13th consumption license.
An attempt to auction of the license last year resulted in no bidders as well. Officials said then that interested buyers picked up application packets at town hall, but no application was ever filed to bid on the consumption license by the Nov. 15 deadline. The auction planned for Nov. 28 was canceled.
In both cases, the town set the minimum bid of $1 million.
In the recent past, Montclair consumption licenses sold for over a million. Last March, Dai Kichi restaurant on Valley Road sold its license for a staggering $1.25 million, the highest price paid in Montclair’s history.
In 2017, South Park sold its license to Fin Raw Bar for $1.2 million, while the Pig & Prince paid $755,000 to acquire its license in 2012.
The number of licenses is based on population. A 1947 New Jersey law allows one consumption license per 3,000 residents. With Montclair’s official population at 38,977 as of the 2010 U.S. Census, the township was allowed 12 consumption (restaurant/bar) and 13 plenary (carry-out) licenses of which only 11 are active.
The current law based on population has created a monopoly driving up prices that only a few can afford, said Dr. Morris A. Davis, Chair of Real Estate and Professor of Finance and Economics at Rutgers University.
In 1894 the number of saloons went from 16 to 48 in Montclair, creating almost a bar on “every dark corner.” Back then, all that was needed was 12 men to sign an application requesting a liquor license and $40 payable to the county, where a judge would approve the application, according to Henry Whittemore in the book, “History of Montclair Township.”