After months of objections brought by a separate liquor license holder in Toms River, the township council unanimously approved the transfer of a license from a former tenant at the Ocean County Mall to the mall's owner on Tuesday.
Despite objections – which were disputed by Township Attorney Ken Fitzsimmons – by Terry Brady, an attorney for Kim Pascarella, the license transfer from Arcadia Inc. to Simon Properties was approved.
Pascarella holds the license of Gabriella's restaurant in the township's Ortley Beach section. Simon owns the Ocean County Mall.
Arcadia, now in bankruptcy, owned the license held by the now-defunct Benihana and El Chico restaurants at the mall. A representative for Simon said the company plans to use the license when it leases space to a new restaurant owner.
Brady argued against the transfer based on two principles: that Simon would be precluded from holding more than two licenses in New Jersey, and that more robust background checks should be performed on the new owner.
Fitzsimmons said state law allows a company to own more than two liquor licenses if an owner uses them as part of a restaurant, and that the township's police department submitted a report that cleared Simon to obtain the license.
An attorney for Simon argued that since the company is a large, publicly traded company based in Indiana, there were no guidelines on which individuals – from the CEO down to thousands of individual shareholders – should be the subject of such a background check.
Brady did not speak on what factors drove Pascarella, who is also an attorney, to oppose the license transfer.
"It's basically about a fraud case that has been filed against the transferer," Pascarella said on Wednesday when contacted by a reporter, adding that pending litigation prevented him from commenting further.
He pledged to now bring the case to the state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.