(Source: Bruce A. Scruton, New Jersey Herald, http://www.njherald.com/story/30244656/spring-street-pub-and-grill-gets-liquor-license) NEWTON — It is a piece of paper, but the license was worth “maybe 30 percent” more in business this past weekend at the Spring Street Pub and Grill. On Friday, after a year’s worth of waiting, Kevin Stender received a state liquor license to begin selling alcohol at the 144 Spring St., eatery. “It definitely made a big difference,” said the happily busy Stender on Monday when asked if business improved with the license. And the weekend didn’t include the full inventory of varieties he will be selling and putting the “pub” back in the business name. New Jersey’s liquor license laws date to the first days after Prohibition when there was still some feeling in the country to put limits on the manufacture, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages.
The state Legislature put in place a system that limits the number of licenses by population, however there are also more than a half-dozen types of licenses just in the sales category.
And there is a double-layer of responsibility with municipalities having control over granting the licenses after the state gives its permission. In Stender’s case, he leases the restaurant space at 144 Spring St., and had to purchase the license that went with the premises. He opened Spring Street Pub and Grill just over 11 months ago, taking over the space where JC’s had closed more than a year before. In June 2014, the Town Council renewed active licenses, but apparently had no word on what to do with the license in the name of Kathy Sakel-Grapsas, which had been used by JC’s.
Under state law, an inactive license must be approved by the director of the Alcohol Beverage Control division of the state Attorney General’s Office, to be renewed.
The Town Council this past June included the Sakel-Grapsas license in its annual renewals, but had not received the sign-off from the state to continue the license as inactive for the year that began July 1.
Local attorney Kevin Kelly was having lunch at Spring Street Pub and Grill and in a conversation with Stender was told of the hold-up on the license. Kelly made some phone calls and wrote some letters, discovering the bookkeeping error over the license.
In late September, the Town Council rescinded its June renewal of the Sakel-Grapas license because it had not gotten the required state action. A week later, the state gave its permission to reactivate the license. At a special council meeting on Friday morning, the board approved the license continuation for Sakel-Grapsas, then approved a resolution transferring the license to Spring Street Pub and Grill.
Word-of-mouth was enough to increase the crowd at Stender’s restaurant over the weekend. He said the restaurant will have a second “grand opening,” planned for Oct. 28, with a 5 p.m. ribbon cutting. “I’m hoping the mayor can be here, and the council, and everybody else,” he said. While no contracts have been signed, he said “We’ll have a band, a trio or just a DJ, but there will be live entertainment.”