Business & Finance

Unsold to the Highest Bidder: Colorado Cafe Owners Reject Liquor License Bid That Failed to Meet Reserve Price

Colorado Cafe President and co-owner Alan Bauerle, pictured in the back, looks on as auctioneer asks if the high bidder, Mark Bahna is willing to up his offer. Credits: Sean Conklin
An excited Mark Bahna, a 30-year-old Watchung resident, poses for a photo after believing he reached a verbal agreement with the owners for the Colorado Cafe liquor license. Credits: Sean Conklin
Mark Bahna, pictured in the white t-shirt and red hat calls out a bid with his partner on the phone. He was the high bidder for an auction that did not meet the owners' undisclosed reserve price. Credits: Sean Conklin
During the auction for the liquor license at the Colorado Cafe on Monday, July 31, there were three groups who were active bidders. Credits: Sean Conklin

WATCHUNG, NJ – More than two decades of memories were auctioned off at the Colorado Cafe on Monday, July 31, as the country-themed bar welcomed patrons for one last time with virtually everything up for sale. The collection included kitchen utensils, the iconic Buck Off mechanical bull, and the valuable liquor license, which now has controversy attached to it.

Mark Bahna, a 30-year-old Watchung resident, was the high bidder of the auction for the liquor license with a final bid of $200,000. However, the reserve price was not met as outlined in the terms of the contract, and the Colorado Cafe ownership group declined to sell it for that amount.

Following the auction, Harry Byrnes, who served as one of the auctioneers, attempted to negotiate with the high bidder and seller to come to terms on an agreement with a larger figure. Byrnes suggested increasing the price to $250,000 to the high bidder, who conditionally agreed to the higher amount after making a brief phone call to his partner. However, the Colorado Cafe owners ultimately rejected the offer and the sale was not finalized.

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“I was trying to get them to meet at a particular number,” said Byrnes, a managing partner of A.J. Willner Auctions. “After talking with the seller, they weren’t willing to come down or entertain the offer.”

“We’re going to have a meeting (with the Board of Directors) and discuss our options,” Colorado Cafe president and co-owner Alan Bauerle said in an interview with TAPintoSPF. “We were under the assumption that there were going to be more bidders at the auction, and there weren’t. We discussed the situation and want to slow down to see what our options are.”

Bauerle added that he is in no rush to sell the liquor license and will consult with his five-member Board of Directors before deciding on anything.

However, Bahna claims that there was a verbal agreement at $250,000 -- with an additional five percent in commissions ($12,500) going to A.J. Willner Auctions -- until an outside party got involved after the auction had closed.

“I’m an upfront guy and am disappointed that they would do this to a local resident,” said Bahna. “If I don’t get this license, I’m definitely going to put it through court and pursue some sort of legal action. I’ve already spoke with my attorney, and he’s been closely involved in the last 24 hours.”

For now, the liquor license is still available for sale and remains in the hands of the Colorado Cafe ownership group until someone offers to buy it for a price agreed upon by the shareholders, according to Bauerle.

The one location the liquor license will not go to is the Colorado Cafe’s seven-acre property, which was purchased by Weldon Materials in 2015. Last summer, the Watchung Planning Board approved ordinances that permitted Weldon to apply for an expansion to its rock quarry, which all but sealed the country-themed club’s long-term fate.

* Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story reported that there was an official agreement was reached between the Colorado Café owners and Bahna, the high bidder. The $250K figure that was cited as the sale price was a proposed figure by the auctioneer, which was accepted by Banha, in an attempt to reach the undisclosed reserve price. The Colorado Cafe owners declined the offer. Meanwhile, Banha told TAPinto that a verbal agreement was in place. The story also misidentified the co-owner as Angelo Porchetta where it should have been Alan Bauerle. 

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