Grabbing a bottle of wine to go with a gallon of milk could be possible in just a few months at ShopRite of Garden State Pavilions, after the Ravitz family delivered the sole bid for Cherry Hill's new liquor license Tuesday.
The Ravitzes' sealed bid of $501,000, which came through their subsidiary, Empire Liquors, LLC, was opened before a handful of township officials Tuesday morning, just after the bidding process officially ended at 11 a.m.
The family will now get to work planning out the store-within-a-store concept, which ShopRite spokeswoman Karen Meleta said will remove some office space in the building and fit in an area that's previously been a coffee shop and a florist inside the Garden State Pavilions supermarket.
“They're going to aggregate that space and locate the store there,” she said.
The store-within-a-store concept, approved by township council over the objections of several local liquor store owners last month, requires ShopRite to have separate registers for alcohol sales, and restricts the hours when liquor can be sold, factors Meleta said the Ravitzes are already taken into consideration as they begin planning for the expansion.
It's not clear exactly how large the interior liquor store will be, though, Meleta said.
“Now that they've won the bid, they'll start planning how much space it'll take up,” she said. “I think they'll know better in a couple of weeks.”
While liquor stores inside grocery stores are a new concept in Cherry Hill, it's something that's been done elsewhere in ShopRite stores across New Jersey, including one in Cinnaminson and one in Parsippany. Because the chain is a retailer-owned cooperative, there's no over-arching corporate structure on how ShopRite liquor stores can run, Meleta said.
“Each of them operate very different from one another,” she said.
Before the liquor license is finalized, there have to be background checks done and the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control has to sign off on the license. Cherry Hill's council will also have to issue a pair of approvals—first for the bid, then for the license itself—and the entire process could take two or three months, according to township spokeswoman Bridget Palmer.
Major changes to the grocery store may also need to go before the planning board, but purely internal work may be handled at an administrative level without needing board approval, Palmer said. The Ravitzes will also have to pay an annual license fee of $2,500, which the township charges on a fiscal year basis.
While there were only a handful of interested parties who picked up pre-qualification packets and only one bidder, the license sold for $76,000 above the minimum set by the township. After canceling the original auction, the township changed it to a blind bid process, with the hopes that could drive up the price of the license.
“It was a successful auction,” Palmer said.