New Lakewood liquor license up for grabs

Gabrielle Saulsbery//April 14, 2022

New Lakewood liquor license up for grabs

Gabrielle Saulsbery//April 14, 2022

Lakewood Township has a consumption liquor license up for grabs, giving one local restaurant owner the rare opportunity to obtain a permit for as little as $150,000.

Qualifying documents from bidders are due in the Township Clerk’s office at 231 Third St. no later than 4 p.m. May 5. An announcement of who the qualified bidders are will be made at 10 a.m. June 2 in Lakewood Town Hall. The auction itself will be conducted by sealed bid on June 16 with all bids due no later than 4 p.m.

Township Clerk and Registrar of Vital Statistics Lauren Kirkman said that the last time the township offered a consumption liquor license in 2015, there were no bidders. Since then, one retail liquor license became available. That license sold.

“I’ve had quite a few people calling me” asking about the availability of licenses, Kirkman said. “Right when I started [in December 2019] we had a few liquor licenses change hands that people had in the pocket that weren’t active, like two or three that have changed hands recently, and I’ve had inquiries from about a dozen other callers asking if we have any restaurant licenses.”

Existing restaurants who wish to sell alcohol and new restaurants coming to town are among those who have called asking about the availability of liquor licenses.

Liquor licenses aren’t often up for grabs on the public market in New Jersey. Since 1947, New Jersey has restricted the number of licenses a municipality can issue based on population. In the late 1960s, lawmakers determined that one consumption license would be allowed per 3,000 people; and one retail license would be allowed per 7,500 people. Unless a town has a substantial population increase, they can’t create any more licenses. Therefore, most liquor licenses in New Jersey are sold on the private market.

Because there’s a limited number of them available – and because many of them that do exist are currently out of use, but also not for sale, dubbed “pocket licenses” – liquor licenses can come at a high cost. A restaurant owner in Montclair payed $1 million for a license in February, and licenses have sold for more than that before.

Current licenses for sale on Liquor License Auctioneers, an online liquor license marketplace, range from $70,000 in Warren to $1,400,000 in Edgewater.

In Lakewood, Kirkman said, “I think the town’s excited to have the opportunity. We’re hopeful to bring a new business or have an existing business have this opportunity.”

Those interested in applying for a liquor license in Lakewood can find the application package on the municipality’s website under “latest updates.” For more information, contact Kirkman directly at [email protected] or call 732-364-2500 ext. 5970.