SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The South Plainfield Borough Council, at its first public meeting of 2018, granted Wine Country’s restriction request, allowing the beer-liquor-wine distributor the right to relocate from one area of the municipality to another. While the council’s 5-0 vote means Wine Country can move out of the Hadley Center and into the Maple Avenue shopping center, it also means the business must adhere to specific restrictions and requests.

With its lease expired, Wine Country sought to move to the center of town but, under borough code 136-6, a liquor license within the municipality cannot be transferred to a premise within 2,000 feet of any other licensed establishment. With the proposed location –a vacant storefront between Dunkin Donuts and Ciccio’s – falling within 2,000 feet of three local businesses with liquor licenses – Flanagan’s, Paulo’s and KC’s Korner – a restriction waiver was required.

In rendering its decision, the council was instructed by its attorney Paul Rizzo to consider factors such as the neighborhood and how the transfer would affect the community and other nearby licensed establishments (only Flanagan’s opposed the relocation) along with comments made by the public during Monday night’s meeting only.

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Councilman Jon Dean expressed concern that kids who typically hang out at the shopping center would be standing ‘outside a liquor store’ to which attorney Walter Abrams told the council that his client’s business is not an establishment ‘where people would be coming out carrying pints.’

Councilwoman Christine Faustini questioned the type of security system Wine Country would have in place. In addition to interior cameras for store use, Faustini requested that, if granted the waiver, Wine Country install an outdoor security system. Having one in place, she said, would not only improve safety, but also deter someone who is underage from trying to make a purchase.

Additionally, Mayor Matt Anesh, with support from the council, requested that individual ‘mini’ liquor bottles – such as the 50ml bottles of rum vodka, etc. typically on display and for sale near registers – not be available for purchase at the new location. “We don't want people walking out of there and consuming them as soon as they hit the sidewalk,” said Anesh. “Also, the shopping center attracts a lot of minors and the council is not comfortable with these being sold at this location.”

Scott Maybaum, who has owned Wine Country at the Hadley Center for the past 10 years, publicly assured the council that he will install the security cameras; property owner Michael Murray, who was also at the meeting, confirmed. Maybaum also agreed to the council’s request that the ‘mini’ liquor bottles not be sold; there is no ban, however, on them being included as part of gift sets and/or baskets.

During Monday night’s meeting, the public was offered an opportunity to speak out for or against Wine Country’s liquor license transfer with Calvin Gross the only resident to take to the podium. Gross opposed the store’s relocation, citing the proposed site’s close proximity to Witty’s on Plainfield Avenue and questioning the need for ‘another liquor store’ in the borough.

“Who established that we needed another liquor store this close?” asked Gross, telling the council, “You are my governing body and you set the standard so if you don't want something, you can say no…but my question still remains…What’s the need?”

Borough leaders, however, stated that Wine Country is not an ‘additional’ liquor store but rather an existing one seeking to transfer its license to a new location. Maybaum told TAPintoSouth Plainfield that while he could have renewed the business’ lease at its current site or relocated within Hadley Center – the former Sears Outlet next to Five Below was an option – he chose the center of town because it would enable the business to be ‘part of the community.’

“In my experience, when you are closer to the community, you become more connected to the community and take an active role. Where we are now, on the other side of town, the population isn’t long-term like the population is here, in the center of town,” said Maybaum, adding, “When you are closer to the community you have a chance to really work with them, take part in events, sponsor activities, be a part and take part.”

Wine Country signed a lease with Maple Avenue property owner Michael Murray last year, contingent upon the council’s decision and, with the council’s approval, can now begin transitioning the business over. The store will remain open at Hadley Center while interior renovations at the Maple Avenue site are performed with the goal of transitioning completely around March 1.

 “I am looking forward to moving here… It will be a nice change to be closer to the center of town and the community itself,” said Maybaum. 

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