SEA ISLE CITY – At its June 22 meeting, Sea Isle City Council approved an ordinance amending an existing ordinance to advance the implementation of place-to-place liquor license transfers.
The amendment was introduced by voice vote at the council’s last meeting, June 8 (https://bit.ly/3deOFbS).
Council’s votes were four “ayes” and one abstention by Council President Bill Kehner, who recused himself from the vote, per Solicitor Paul Baldini, out of an “abundance of caution,” as an employee of Bennett Enterprises Inc., whose owner was also the owner of the former La Costa Lounge, now the site of the new license recipient, Beach Bar at the Ludlam.
Council chambers were packed, with the amendment’s supporters on one side of the room and its opponents on the other. Throughout the nearly two-hour discussion, input from residents, employees and other interested parties during public comments frequently grew emotional, which elicited comments from the council, noting such discourse was “sad” and reflected “hate” not representative of the town.
Throughout public comment, there was an almost equal division between those for and against the amendment’s implementation. Those in favor opined that the original 2003 ordinance was ripe for amendment; “the license needed to return to the location where it has been for 80 years rather than ‘pocketed;’” and the economic suffering unleashed by Covid dictates the city do everything over and above the usual to create employment and help local businesses.
Many employees of the new Beach Bar at the Ludlam attended the meeting, and all had the same message: “We want and need to work and want the Beach Bar to succeed as a new concept to change the reputation of Sea Isle as a party town. We are all striving as a team to ensure the new Beach Bar is clean, no noise, proper ID checks, and a great place to enjoy the food and drinks we prepare and serve.”
Those opposing the amendment were universal in their arguments that “rules are rules;” the new owner, Chris Glancey, did not file his application for license transfer in a timely fashion; that approval by the council would be “arbitrary,” “capricious” and “egregious to treat the application as an ‘emergency;’” the amendment represented special, not general, legislation on behalf of favoring one individual; the city will be open to lawsuits; and the matter should go directly to the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).
An existing license holder, from Diamond Liquors, supported the amended ordinance, “since it will protect all holders, not just the new Beach Bar, and let everyone know what to expect from one day to the next.”
In answer to a question from Council member Mary Tighe, Baldini said, “There is the presumption of validity once a municipal governing body passes an ordinance, although no one can really predict what a judge will do when presented with an appeal. On its face, the amendment is not ‘unconstitutional,’ as some opposing it have averred.”
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