Wine bottles hang on the wall at Sapore Restaurant in Ventnor. Al Mertkola, owner of the BYOB restaurant, says the bottles have been there for years as decoration.

ERIN GRUGAN / Staff Photographer

VENTNOR — The city commissioners were hoping to toast the new year with the sale of up to two retail consumption liquor licenses, but they may have to wait until after the Jan. 4 meeting.

The board agreed at its last meeting that instead of accepting bids for one license, it will accept sealed bids for two licenses 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 15.

According to Commissioner Lance Landgraf, there has been renewed interested in obtaining licenses.

“People have been asking about them a little bit more,” he said at the Dec. 21 meeting.

Voters approved a binding referendum Nov. 8, 2016 with a vote of 2,098 to 1,570 to allow beer, wine and liquor to be sold for consumption at full-service restaurants in any of the city’s business districts — south, central, North Beach, Dorset Avenue and Wellington Avenue. The issue had been put before voters in two prior referendums, the last time in 1975, and was denied both times.

In accordance with state law and based on its year-round population of 9,000 residents, Ventnor is eligible to issue up to three licenses.

Because the city received no response when it requested bids on June 23, the board reduced the minimum bid amount from $100,000 to $75,000.

“I think the timing is off for a business to reap the benefits during their busiest season,” Mayor Beth Holtzman said in June.

A second round of bidding on Nov. 3 also produced no bidders.

The board will now discuss if it can structure language in the bidding documents to allow bidding on more than one license.

“It needs to be set up where you can bid on one or the other,” Landgraf said.

Administrator Maria Mento said Tuesday that the board would discuss its options Thursday.

"The concern is that a person could wind up with two licenses when they only want one," Mento said.

The board may have to redraft the proposed resolution requesting bids for more than one license, or it can decide to bid one, with a second round of bidding at a later date, she said.

Bidders must first qualify to submit bids, according to the resolution commissioners approved at the meeting.

The board is required to advertise for bids twice at least 30 days before accepting sealed bids at the Municipal Clerk’s Office.

A two-step process requires bidders to submit an Affidavit of Qualification Feb. 8, which is seven days before the bid submission date that was approved Dec. 21. Bids will not be accepted from anyone who does not meet those qualifications.

Bid packages due Feb. 15 must include a 12-page application to the Division of Alcohol Beverage Control (available at the clerk’s office), a letter stating the bid amount, the signed affidavit of qualification, and a certified check or money order equaling 10 percent of the bid amount.

The licenses will be awarded to the highest bidders, who will then be required to pass a police investigation.

For information about the bidding process call City Clerk Lisa Hand at 609-823-7904.

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