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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

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Cape May Solicitor Reverses Opinion on Liquor License Transfer Vote

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By Vince Conti

CAPE MAY – At the Aug. 2 Cape May City Council meeting, it appeared that the person-to-person and place-to-place transfer of a liquor license of the now-closed Merion Inn to New Jersey Farmers Cooperative failed to receive the necessary votes for passage.
The vote was 2-to-1, with one individual of the five-member council absent and Mayor Zack Mullock abstaining. Mullock explained his abstention, choosing not to vote on a matter involving a neighborhood in which he resides.
There was a quorum of three council members voting, with one, Lorraine Baldwin, voting no, and two, Michael Yaeger and Shaine Meier, in the affirmative. Normally in city council business, the vote would not be sufficient for the passage of the resolution.
The circumstances were not normal. The council was, in this instance, acting on behalf of another entity, the state Division of Alcoholic and Beverage Control (ABC). In such a situation, the applicant’s attorney pointed out after the meeting, a majority of a quorum is all that is needed to pass a resolution.
At the meeting, City Solicitor Christopher Gillen-Schwartz opined that the resolution failed for lack of a third vote.
In a letter dated Aug. 5 to the applicant’s attorney, Marcus Karavan, Gillen-Schwartz acknowledged the ABC’s interpretation of the law will hold in this case. That interpretation rests on the “common law quorum rule,” which provides that decisions may be made by a majority of the quorum. In this case, the 2-to-1 vote is sufficient for passage.
The letter concludes by confirming “that the vote on August 2, 2022, will be recorded to conform to the ABC’s interpretation – resulting in the application for transfer being granted by majority vote of a quorum.”
What has been at issue here is the transfer of a liquor license to an entity that will use it to run a bar at the Southern Mansion for use by guests of the Mansion. Guests are defined as registered room guests and those who attend a special event at the Mansion by invitation. The guests at special events will only have the authorization to consume alcohol for the duration of the event.
The New Jersey Farmers Cooperative will lease the space for the bar from the Southern Mansion and will act as the vendor for liquor service at events.
Some neighbors of the Southern Mansion expressed concerns that the special events would disturb their enjoyment of their homes in a residential area.
The applicant and the applicant’s attorney, New Jersey Farmers Cooperative, sought ways to ameliorate the concerns, changing certain aspects of the Mansion’s operation. Several residents said they were satisfied with the result of the negotiations.
The transfer of the license has now been approved by the city. It will be subject to the same annual renewal process that governs all city liquor licenses. 
Have any thoughts and/or information on this topic? Email vconti@cmcherald.com.    

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