By JOHN T. WARD
Is Little Silver ready for a stiff drink?
For the second time in 39 years, voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to allow the creation of the town’s first-ever on-premise-consumption liquor license.
A reader recently sent us this shot of a well-traveled placard, last known to have hung at the now-gone Murray MacGregor’s in Rumson, of bygone local bars — none of which were located in Little Silver. Below, the Red Bank Register’s November 3, 1976 report on the borough’s last vote on a booze question. (Photo below by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
The effort to get the measure on the ballot was led by Matt Kelly, an 11-year resident who co-owns Kelly Builders. He did not respond to requests for comment in recent days.
When he delivered a 500-signature petition calling for the referendum a year ago, Kelly told the borough council he envisioned a family-friendly restaurant similar to Val’s Tavern in Rumson.
Kelly cited the west side of the train station as a good location for bar or booze-ready restaurant because it doesn’t abut any residential areas, would be accessible to commuters as well as those who work locally, and could help spark rehabilitation of vacant properties on the east side of the tracks, he said.
Kelly would also have to compete for the license in a public bid, with the proceeds going into the borough’s coffers. The town cannot prohibit chain restaurants from bidding, borough Attorney Megan Bennett Clark has said.
Current zoning does not permit bars anywhere in town, so an ordinance allowing for it in at least one zone would have to be adopted.
The town of about 6,000 residents hasn’t permitted on-premise drinking at least since the start of Prohibition, with one-day exceptions made for firemen’s fairs and similar events.
Voters shot down a similar referendum by a margin of 1,804 to 1,070 in 1976, according to the Red Bank Register. And whatever they decide this time, the decision will stand for at least five years, according to ballot information.
Here’s the wording of the referendum:
Shall the retail sale of all kinds of alcoholic beverages, for consumption on the licensed premises by the glass or other open receptacle pursuant to chapter one of the Title Intoxicating Liquors of the Revised Statutes (s. 33:1-1 et seq.), be permitted in this municipality?
This binding Referendum presents the question of whether retail alcohol sales will be allowed for consumption on a licensed premises, by the glass or other open container, within the Borough of Little Silver. If a majority of the legal voters in the Borough of Little Silver shall vote “yes” then the issuance of a plenary retail consumption license by the Borough would be allowed. If the majority of the legal voters in the Borough of Little Silver shall vote “no,” then the issuance of a plenary retail consumption license would not be allowed. Further, the decision of the voters in the Borough of Little Silver on this question shall be binding on and remain effective in the Borough of Little Silver for the next five years. No further referendum on this same question shall be held in the Borough of Little Silver prior to the General Election in the fifth year hereafter.