Cocktails At Fin! Montclair Liquor License Sold For Close to $1.2 Million Will Also Cover New Gastropub (UPDATED)

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Update: The office of the municipal town clerk tells Baristanet that the actual price for the license Cerrigone purchased was $1,150,000. The clerk’s office also confirms that Dick Grabowksy purchased Cecere’s license at auction for $1,236,000 in August 2015.

Gerry Cerrigone and Bobby Gaccione, restaurant owners of Salute, Salugo, and Fin Raw Bar & Kitchen, have purchased a liquor license from the former South Park Restaurant for a whopping $1.2 million. “$1.2 million for a Montclair liquor license is just ridiculous,” says Cerrifgone, “when other [past] licenses were bought for around $700,000.00.”

This purchase followed his initial attempts to purchase the liquor license from Richard Cecere’s. Cerrigone’s plans fell through when the license was court ordered to be sold at auction.

Cerrigone plans to open a full bar soon, at his signature Fish eatery, FIN, on Glenridge Avenue in Montclair.
The target date to open the full bar service is Tuesday, April 26, with a full selection of wine, craft beer, champagne, and cocktails.

Cerrigone is adamant about keeping FIN a Montclair-style BYO despite the new costly liquor license. ” We’ve built up a faithful clientele over the past five years who have made us what we are today. There’s no way I’m going to tell them they can’t continue to bring their wine to dinner at FIN. These customers are used to bringing their own, and will continue to do so. And no, there’s never going to be a corkage fee.”

FIN’s varied wine list will be accessible and drinker-friendly, listed by several price points: $20+under, $30+ under, $40+under, $50+under and “Reserve”.

What about his latest Montclair enterprise next door? The yet unnamed gastropub, which occupies the former Montclair Feed building, will be separate but connected to FIN via a front hallway. And lucky for Cerrigone, that means the costly liquor license does double duty.

Executive Chef and Partner Michael Juliano is planning a menu with classic pub fare plus his own twist on a selection of gourmet french fries and mac ‘n cheese dishes. The new pub will have a soft opening around August 15. With three restaurants on one block, Cerrigone is also providing much needed parking relief for patrons in the form of complimentary valet parking for all.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. If the going rate was $700K, why did Cerrigone pay $1.2 million? It’s not at all clear from the article…

    Also, if Grabowsky has been holding a liquor license hostage for the past 10 years, can he be forced to either use it or lose it?

  2. Now I’m inspired to try Fin, which I had been meaning to try – and looking forward to the new gastropub!

  3. Maybe Grabowsky needs the liquor license for a hot, new after-hours club he’s planning to open at his assisted living facility.

  4. Fin is a great restaurant, and the license will be an asset to their fine cuisine.

    It’s unfortunate for Montclair that several licenses have remained locked in desk drawers, literally for years. Unfortunate for dining customers, of course, but also for the town’s revenue.

    Maybe the town should require that unused licenses be sold at public auction if they’re not put to work within one year. Or, a $50,000 maintenance fee paid to the town each year the license is off market. A license is an asset, just like real estate, and it should be helping to pay for police, fire, schools, etc.

    It’s not like Montclair is wallowing in licenses, or tax revenue…

  5. I can’t pretend to understand N.J.’s byzantine liquor laws, but you have a strange business concept where the purpose of an asset is simply to produce tax revenues. Public interests matter, naturally, but is there some role for private interests in that set up? If I buy, say, forest land, or a mine, or a piece of commercial property and don’t immediately harvest or develop it, I should pay a tax penalty? Is there any room in you scheme for conservation in that world? Or simply speculation that the future value of a license or commercial property will be higher? Maybe Graboswky’s “crazy” bid is a positive sign about Montclair’s prospects as an entertainment district, or a place to get a cocktail.

  6. I re-read my post, and I didn’t find any mention that I asserted “the purpose of an asset is simply to produce tax revenues”. My first reference was the artificial reduction in available places to purchase a bottle of wine with dinner.

    The town issues licenses to holders with the idea that the holder will provide a public service to folks who wish to purchase alcohol. Simply buying the license and locking it in a desk drawer does little to benefit the public thirst or the public purse.

    Use it, or lose it

  7. Is it true that the inactive licenses only pay $2,500 per year to the town? That seems ridiculously low. Not much incentive to use them.

  8. Well, Paolo, you are correct that you did not write those words verbatim, pardon my paraphrasing. But you clearly implied that public interest comes first:

    “The town issues licenses to holders with the idea that the holder will provide a public service to folks who wish to purchase alcohol. Simply buying the license and locking it in a desk drawer does little to benefit the public thirst or the public purse.”

    It’s all about the “public” in your model (3 mentions). No mention of private interests whatsoever. Did you study at North Korea State?

  9. “Did you study at North Korea State?”

    —two mentions of “public” means you graduated from Sandinista High; one mention means you once saw a doctor in Canada…

    …while using “North Korea State” as a metaphor for anything means it’s time to adjust the tin foil shields in one’s apartment…

  10. Licenses on the shelf is actually not as big an issue because Montclair proprietors have effectively added 5 new licenses without an increase in the population. Further, I believe some distribution licensees have entered into arrangements to deliver beer & wine to BYOB customers.

  11. And where will the patrons of this new restaurant park?

    That little corner is already a clogged up mess.

  12. mistercranetown: you are definitely correct in that the current parking situation on glen ridge is not ideal. To me, it makes a lot of sense to replace the current inefficient and really ugly and uninviting surface parking lot across the street from all of three of these restaurants with a three story (Glen Ridge Ave was recently downzoned, and appropriately so, to max out at three stories) building of structured parking with retail on the front of the first floor. Kind of a mini-crescent street deck. It would simultaneously achieve two goals by dramatically improving the streetscape with 3-4 storefronts that come right up to the curb and triple the amount of parking spaces that are currently there. Glen Ridge Avenue has made some strides in recent years and could become a nice extension, in scope and overall feel, of the beloved Church St. if sufficient parking is offered. Surface parking lots are such an incredibly outdated, inefficient, auto centric use of the most valuable land in so many downtowns…a deathblow to the vibrance of any neighborhood…we need to continue to replace them all with structured parking. The crescent deck i sat or near capacity every weekend which justifies it’s presence. Can you imagine if all six levels of that lot where surface parking…hollowed out concrete laden “downtowns” where a product of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s…thankfully they are on their way out.

  13. Sorry Parkour, but that’s over-developement speak to me. The neighborhood is already so crowded and there is only access to this lot from one street. Best option is to put a really big deck on the former Pathmark property which will act like a magnet for the businesses on the lower end of Bloomfield Avenue. The lot on Glen Ridge Ave. would be better off as permit parking only for the residents of the surrounding area. Also, after 20 years in Montclair, what is the issue with the parking lot on Forest Street next to the vet’s office? What a complete waste of space. Instead of building more decks, we need synergy to use parking spaces that are underutilized.

  14. well miscranetown….sorry you consider efficient land use and a much aesthetically enhanced streetscape that will enhance the civic life of the town “overdevelopment speak”. The fact that my proposed mini-crescent deck would be halfway in-between the large crescent deck and the large proposed deck at Lackawanna Plaza would serve the glen ridge corridor perfectly. The current Glen Ridge Avenue lot is so inefficient and for damage it does to the appeal of the area only holds 40 cars…awful.

    There isn’t really a dearth of parking in Montclair…jst a shortage of a certain type of parking, the spot right next to every store that I want to go in so I just have to roll myself out of my car and walk less than 30 feet. Walk-Shmalk….You want parking lagoons adjacent to every storefront and you have what all of suburbia looks like…strip malls and parking lots as far as the eye can see. It is what the vast vast majority of our country looks like. The presence of a viable downtown is so rare…we cannot waste a square foot of prime real estate of surface lot vehicle storage.

  15. parkour,

    You are on a roll of being badly informed. Yes, the 85 space (not 40 space) Midtown Parking lot configuration is inefficient (about 40%). However, even under optimal conditions, to triple the parking capacity with liner storefronts would require a 4-story structure and cost $7.5MM at a minimum. There is not a developer alive that would do this…even Pinnacle.

    So, say you are sorry to mistercranetown and try to fact check yourself once in a while.

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