Cecere Liquor License for Sale

Richie Cecere’s, the restaurant that attempted to bring 1940’s-style glamour to Montclair with an 18-piece orchestra and showgirls wearing top hats and tuxedos with satin shorts, has put its liquor license up for sale for $850,000. The restaurant itself is not for sale, says Rich Hewitt, the broker handling the liquor license sale.

Meanwhile, the proposed $725,000 sale of the Charlie Brown’s liquor license to ARC Properties goes before a bankruptcy judge for approval this morning.

Asked why Cecere’s license is being offered at $125,000 more than the Charlie Brown license, Hewitt said, “There are not any others available.” The ARC license, if approved, is attached to a project to develop a restaurant at Lackawanna Plaza, he said, while Dick Grabowsky’s unused liquor license remains connected to the former Red Cheetah’s property on Bloomfield Ave. The consumption liquor license would have to remain in Montclair. Hewitt can be reached through Liquor License PA-NJ.

In the current recession economy, Cecere’s redefined itself as a restaurant that welcomed families and offered a more modestly-priced menu.

Cecere says business has been slow, with only one of three bars in the restaurant open for business. He says he’s now “bending” to local tastes. “The town seems to like bring your own. Everybody’s walking down the street with a bottle of wine in their hand.”

He adds that his luxe style seems to have been misunderstood. He said that a drugstore clerk recently told him that she didn’t go to his restaurant because she couldn’t afford it. ” ‘I heard a hamburger is $100,’ ” he quoted her as saying.

“Our coat room is mahogany. Most restaurants don’t even have a coatroom,” said Cecere. “When you make something too pretty, when you have waiters in tuxedos, that scares people.”

“We’re hanging in there,” he said. “Now I’m bending. If you like bring your own, bring your own.”

He said customers can bring their own wine now, even before the liquor license is sold, or order from the bar: “In other words, it’s AC/DC.”

Cecere added that he might bring back to the nightclub shows, which were suspended last April, in a BYOB setting.

Here’s the nightclub, with dancing girls, in May 2008, before the fall of Lehman.

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  1. Here’s the nightclub, with dancing girls, in May 2008, before the fall of Lehman.

    Oh, those were the days. But alas, they’re gone.

    Here’s the deal, Rich: I’ll give you $50k in hundred dollar bills for the liquor license. And I’ll throw in my library of Folies Bergere videos, Rat Pack DVDs and Wayne Newton CDs, plus a toupee once worn by Donald Trump.

  2. Walleroo – you’re trying way to hard man. Starting to reek of “I need something more substantial to do with my life”.

  3. Way to expensive for my taste. I’d rather walk a few feet and hit Corso 98, one of my all-times faves.

    Seems odd that he is asking a lot of coin for his liquor but admits that Montclair is more of a BYOB town. Not a very good sales job.

  4. Richies is a fine restaurant that suffers from some misconceptions, among them that it is pricier than alternatives, and that there is always a stage show or performance of some kind. I always found it to be a great, upscale, quiet place to enjoy drinks or dinner with my family. Probably the best business dinner spot in town, and chances are you’ll pay more for the sport bar cum divorcee pick-up atmosphere at Egans.

  5. I’m with you, Deadeye. I have never had an unpleasant experience at Richie’s or a bad meal. Also, I don’t think it’s any more expensive than any other upscale joint in the area.

  6. Cecere’s is one of few places that actually hire big bands, which are totally cool (though I could do without the dancing girls). So I wish him well.

  7. The one time I was at this place, I found it all kind of silly and overdone. It reminded me of Rodney Dangerfield’s line about working before he made it big in places on the order of “Ciro’s, formerly Nando’s, soon to be Dante’s” (or something like that). And the costumes seemed a bit threadbare (although there was attitude aplenty, all that was missing in that sense was Barton MacLane or Jack LaRue in a double-breasted tux in the back room surrounded by flunkies).

    This place’s “time” is long, long past. 40, maybe even 50 years ago, when such establishments were termed “lounges.” I never felt Cecere’s belonged at all in modern Jersey. Certainly not in Montclair. In general feel, however, it was probably actually perfect for drugstore clerks and others who might be impressed that a coatroom is paneled in mahogany. (Of course many of those folks already have Bliss to go to in Clifton, or Teak in Hoboken.)

    But they’re welcome to charge as much as they can get for the liquor license. With this kind of money at stake, however, I hope that the police will pay attention to the possibility (so common in Jersey in my experience, after all) as to any variance between whose names are on the Certificate of Occcupancy and who actually owns the place (even via the proverbial “hidden and undisclosed beneficial interest”).

    And at such a price, the only punters who may have such ready dough might in fact be a chain restaurant of some sort, although the demise of Charlie Brown’s seems to indicate that such places too are at risk in today’s economy. (We all know, too, how the presence of such a chain in Montclair would inevitably raise the hackles of posters here.)

  8. Oh, and walleroo, there are lots of places in NJ which still hire big (anyway largish) bands. They’re usually ethnic places. Such as several Latino clubs along Hudson Boulevard and the side streets in North Bergen, and that big German club whose name escapes me down in Rahway.

    Plus, if you’d get off your furry rump and drive, there’s always AC.

  9. The food is always excellent, but remember that billboard facing the window seat of the commuter train? It was puzzling. Felt underworld-ish. This restaurant would’ve done well in Cedar Grove (Villa D’Este) or in Livingston or in Florham Park. Montclair was the wrong location.

  10. Oh boy…

    You people make me laugh, flat brimmed red Yankee hats and card board hard jeans dropped down to some guys knees exposing his underwear are not exactly hard to find on the streets of Baristaviile. Nor is tramp stamp, tattooed soccer mom slamming down cans Mountain Dew while sucking on a Newport. Your more likely to bump into a gang banger on the street than Daisey and Tom Buchanan. I got bad news for you, this isn’t exactly the Gold Coast.

    Baristaville snobbery rears it’s ugly head again.

  11. Outside of the general lack of availability of liquor licenses, many Montclair diners seem to generally prefer to go to BYOs, and I don’t think it’s because the establishment wouldn’t stock their preferred vintage of Chateau Margeaux. Under a veneer of affluence, a lot of locals appear to be a rather thrifty bunch. The fact that you can’t get a cocktail or wine with dinner at so many otherwise great places, strikes me as downright bizarre.

    Cathar, Richies is quite a bit different now than you recollect. I never saw any of the shows or bands, but I think that it’s safe to say that many factors aligned to derail the original concept. The food is good, the staff is friendly, and you can actually order a drink.

  12. No Herb, it’s definitely not the Gold Coast. Other than a place that’s trying to be all things to all people, I haven’t figured out what it is…

  13. For those you who find it easy sport to criticize Cecere’s or Richie himself, I’d like to say this . . . The man had a dream; and at least he had the courage, and guts, and chutzpah to build something that he believed in. I’ve had the privilege of knowing Richie and Rose since they first opened their establishment, and have enjoyed their company over many drinks and dinners.

    And while yes, he has fallen on hard times recently, back before the financial meltdown, Richie and Rose really had that place going.

    Hey Cathar, what are you eluding to when you say, “With this kind of money at stake, however, I hope that the police will pay attention to the possibility (so common in Jersey in my experience, after all) as to any variance between whose names are on the Certificate of Occcupancy and who actually owns the place (even via the proverbial “hidden and undisclosed beneficial interest”).

    Once again, your statement above belies the fact that you simply have no idea of what you speak. Empty words said for pure titillation based not on one single iota of truth nor shred of evidence!

    While you use a hackneyed Rodney Dangerfield image to speak in the pejorative, I suggest you ponder “Alma Mater”, Ferris Booth, and your days long ago while at Morningside in your sad, lonely little garden apartment in Clifton.

    And as for you not being impressed with mahogany coat check rooms, back during the Peloponnesian War, I remember the days seeing you stumbling out of the West End Café on Broadway & 113th without a coat at all!

    Just for the record, of course!

  14. The West End? You sure it wasn’t the Gold Rail or Jim’s Tavern? Much better places to have a few!

  15. I’ve re-read a few posts and I don’t think anyone criticized the Cecere’s for investing in their ‘dream’. I have only been there for drinks and it wasn’t casual enough for my taste. I’d rather go out casual and that sort of setting just wasn’t for me. I applaud them for investing and trying to make it a success, its extremely difficult to do. I am a firm believer in small business but with that comes risks and there are times when I question why anyone would have thought something would have worked. A bit Arm Chair Quarterback of me admittedly. This site posts the article and people make comment. I don’t think there is anyone ‘making sport of criticizing’ them. I wish them great success in the future.

  16. My comments not pointed at you or others, herbeverschmel, but specifically to the person I referenced to in my original reply.

  17. I, for one, like to dress up and go out to a “grown up” establishment once in awhile. Lord knows I am tired of seeing grown men in baseball caps (who haven’t set foot on a baseball diamond since the Eisenhower era) that populate most of the local pubs and eateries in Baristaville and beyond. Whatever happened to gentlemen removing their hats when indoors? Not to let my own sex off the hook: Whatever happened to women wearing their bra straps inside their clothes? There’s a reason it’s called “underwear,” you wear it under your clothes. So yeah, it’s nice to pull out the Lilly Pulitzer dress and pumps and step out to a nice, quite, mahoghany-paneled establishment that serves real food and drink without crayons on the table.

  18. Silverleaf, I do have a fair amount of familiarity with clubs, liquor licenses and related matters. And sometimes, golly gee, “strange” people buy liquor licensea, or get others to buy them for them. Friends of mine many years ago fronted for other people. It did not work out well for them financially.

    That you took umbrage at my referencing this fact of life in NJ, seemed to think I was thus disparaging the current ownership of Richie Cecere’s (which I was in no way doing), well, that’s simply your own foolishness. Either that or you were simply trying to show off and also attack me personally. (As I suspect you may have done before under another posting name.) But you’re not supposed to make such attacks upon your fellow posters, and should you continue, I will complain to the “sheriffs” here, since your comments constitute a mere attempt at personal cruelty.

    Kevin57, I don’t at all recall Jim’s Tavern. The Gold Rail, sure, and also the Marvin Cafe (which seemed especially full on weekday afternoons with old Upper West Side locals who sure liked to drink). I also recall Forlini’s as having a liquor license back then.

    It is always fine to try something different. I’m sure loads of American cities still have “throwback” sort of establishments, kind of like Ritchie Cecere’s. But any analysis of Montclair’s demographics does not seem to support a place like Cecere ran. It really is as simple as that. (Nor did he seem to create the hype machine which might have given his place a boost, however temporary.) Cecere is then lucky indeed to be able to be asking as much as he is just for the license, just for a mere piece of paper. And I’m pretty sure he’ll get it, just as I am that most folks may not like who buys it. Whoever buys it. (Personally, I can see a Cheers-like joint called “Walleroo’s,” but maybe that’s just me.)

  19. Herb: That’s fine for a casual place or down the shore…everything has it’s place. It’s just that I see this look in places you would have never seen it 15, 20 years ago.

  20. “But you’re not supposed to make such attacks upon your fellow posters, and should you continue, I will complain to the “sheriffs” here, since your comments constitute a mere attempt at personal cruelty.”

    Killing me…

  21. Same old cathar, same of obvious, transparent retort.

    Once again, you attempt to stand tall in the bully pulpit, but when challenged, you play the part of the accused, the wounded, and transition to defense.

    And as for me taking umbrage, ridiculous! Why would you make a point of clearly stating what you did without the obvious intent to implicate or attach the establishment to an illegal transaction?

    We’ve seen it all before cathar; statements taken as gospel shrouded in (not) so clever innuendo.

    Perhaps it was you, not I, who was trying to show off your ostensible knowledge of NJ liquor laws?

    You say that “it was probably actually perfect for drugstore clerks”, thus further attempting to disparage the kind to clientele patronizing the establishment.

    It’s not personal cather, it’s strictly business!

  22. Deadeye, I agree with you, I do, I do! (It’s so very exciting.) I want to go to a restaurant and order a cocktail just like you can in almost every other town or city in these United States. A few BYOs would be fine, I suppose, but it should not be the standard and I don’t understand the people who swear by this antiquated system. And I presume that it would be easier for a lot of restaurants to stay in business if they could profit from beer/liquor/wine sales but what do I know, I’m only a scientist.

  23. RC’s is a treasure, for any town. Food is great and the band is the best this side of Las Vegas. The only knock is the clientele don’t know how to dress for a night out. But in this era of no class-ness, you dress to please yourself and ignore the slobs and hope they don’t get the table next to yours. The price of a license is whatever the market will bear. If the liqour commission would suddenly modernize to 21st century morays we would all benefit, not just the well healed bar owners. Imagine what we could have if licenses were not restricted by population of a town? We now have cars, buses and trains for the last 100 years and no longer need the protection of the silly law, 1 per 3000 people or whatever it is. It restricts the freedom of a commercial area to develop as a destination for fine dining and adult entertainment, in keeping with our musical history in the USA. How presumptious of the legislature to not allow me to buy a drink in a restaurant of my choosing; no, how arrogant of them to not change the law in the 21st century. Best of luck to Cecere’s staying around for a long time.

  24. The one and only thing this place has going for it is the liquor license. If they are going to sell it, just close up shop. Who in their right mind is going to go to a “supper club” with no booze?!?

    Ditch the name, change the menu, lose the “Sopranos Light” vibe, and make the place more inviting to families. No one, repeat, no one is going to BYOB.

    just sayin’…

  25. I agree – no one is going to go to a supper club that is BYOB….

    This town/area is definitely in need of more GOOD bars. I enjoy BYOB restaurants, but sometimes I just want to go somewhere where I can have a cocktail or martini. And, this area is lacking. Egan’s is always too busy and loud. The Office and V-Bar kinda suck. Montclair Station has a weird ambiance – a bar in the middle of what feels like a family breakfast restaurant. Bar Cara in Bloomfield is nice, but the bar area isn’t that big.

    Cecere should re-vamp the restaurant to be just your average good, local bar with nice drinks, nice food, and reasonable prices. Compete with Egan’s and get their overflow.

  26. I can’t put into words the bad vibes this place gave me. Thought I had walked into hell. Really did have that small time mobster feel. What some might call a “classy place”, if you are the type of person who uses the word “classy”.

  27. Once or twice a month, my wife and I will “dress up” during the week, never a weekend, and go to the bar at Highlawn Pavilion for a few drinks and some bar food. Great views and good bartenders. There are very limited venues for the over 40 crowd (or 50 or 60) to enjoy a drink or two in a quieter atmosphere.

  28. I love the bar at Highlawn during the week. (Only we don’t bother dressing up.) It’s a great crowd–like watching an episode of The Sopranos.

  29. My definition of dressing up, walleroo, is taking off the jeans, pullover shirt and sneakers and putting on a dress shirt, nice slacks and shoes. My wife, on the other hand, takes it to a higher level and I like that.

  30. What I’m saying, dc, is I leave on the jeans, the pullover and the sneakers. In short, I stay true to my essential nature: a slob. For some reason, they still serve me, perhaps because I’m the spitting image of Brad Pitt. If you see me, say hi, or better yet, buy a round.

  31. walleroo, how can they refuse someone in a pink shirt?

    I agree with Mrs. M. While most times I’m as happy in a casual restaurant as I would be at the Manor, I do enjoy getting dressed up and going out once in a while. It seems that as a society, we don’t do enough of this any more.

  32. I know, Nellie. I am always reminded of this when I watch an old movie from the 1940s or 50s and see how glamourous everyone looks when they go out to a club. Like my mom and dad!

    Even the movie stars of yore were more glamorous than their modern counterparts when they went out around town. You would never see Bette Davis or Liz Taylor, for example, wearing sweats with their hair tied up in a scrunchy!

  33. I was wondering when someone would mention the Highlawn bar, which is great for all of the reasons mentioned above.
    A few final observations about Richie’s. To me, Richie’s is a great restaurant with a great bar, and convenient to the train to have a drink with friends after work. The supper club was part of the original concept, but hasn’t been for quite some time now. I’m sure they may stage some events occasionally, if there is popular demand, but the shows aren’t part of the regular routine these days. The patrons these days are clued in to the the fact that the place is quiet, friendly, unhurried, and just plain good. As for the vibe, I don’t get the whole Soprano’s thing, and chalk it up to a misconception perhaps formed a few years ago when the place was jammed with lots of folks looking for a more glitzy night out. If anyone isn’t comfortable enough in their own skin so as to be somehow intimidated by walking into a good restaurant, well then stick to TGIF.

  34. “It’s nice to go to a bar with no TVs and loud, crappy music.”
    But, Mrs. M, that would mean you’d have to hold a conversation with your spouse.

  35. Mrs M. Scrunchies and those horrible gigantic hair clips, you touched my fashion nerve. But then I recall my youthful dating days when young men wore ties to the Brooklyn Paramount.

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