Michels, Morgan and Kentz. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Michels, J.A.D.
This is an appeal from a determination and order of the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control of the State of New Jersey (Director) in which he dismissed an appeal by Margate Civic Association (Association) from the action of the Board of Commissioners of the City of Margate (Board) approving the application by George Naame and Manaam, Inc. (Manaam) for a place-to-place transfer of a plenary retail consumption license to include as part of its licensed premises the building immediately adjacent thereto.
Manaam is the holder of a plenary retail consumption license (C-16) for premises known as Maloney's Tavern located at 23 South Washington Avenue, Margate, New Jersey. Manaam operates the tavern on the ground floor of the licensed premises serving alcoholic beverages and at times a limited sandwich menu. These premises are owned by Manaam. In fall 1972 Manaam purchased the adjacent premises known as and located at 27 South Washington Avenue. These premises consist of a building substantially similar to the 23 South Washington Avenue building, and its ground floor has been used as a restaurant for many years. The two buildings are separated by a common alleyway three to four feet wide, the street end of which is closed off by a fence to prevent public passage. Both premises are zoned for commercial use.
In May 1973 Manaam applied to the Board for a place-to-place transfer of its plenary retail consumption license to include, in addition to the premises at 23 South Washington Avenue where it operated Maloney's Tavern, the adjacent premises at 27 South Washington Avenue where it intended to operate as "Maloney's Beef and Brew."*fn1 The
Board conducted a hearing and approved the application. Manaam thereupon repaired and remodeled the 27 South Washington Avenue building to accommodate a bar and tables and began operations as Maloney's Beef and Brew serving a limited food menu. While Maloney's Tavern and Maloney's Beef and Brew each had a separate entrance, Manaam operated them as a single business entity.
The Association appealed from the approval of the application by the Board to the Director who designated a hearing officer for the appeal. At the conclusion of the hearing the hearing officer submitted his report in which he recommended that the action of the Board be reversed. The hearing officer found that the two buildings were not structurally joined and that Manaam operated them as "two distinct enterprises independent of each other save ownership." He concluded that under the circumstances a place-to-place transfer of the existing license would result in splitting the license and violating the provisions of N.J.S.A. 33:1-26 and Margate Ordinance No. 730. Director Bower disagreed and in a well-reasoned opinion affirmed the Board's approval of the place-to-place transfer and dismissed the Association's appeal, stating:
I find, under the facts herein, that although the buildings do not physically adjoin one another, the operations of these establishments are operated as a single unit, and hence can be considered as one single place of business within the meaning of the statute. Re Beisch, Bulletin 81, Item 10; Re Gallagher's, supra. [A.B.C. Bull. No. 1945, Item 1.]
Thus, I find that the said transfer was not violative of N.J.S.A. 33:1-26 or of the subject local ordinance.
In sum, I conclude that the respondent Board acted in the circumspect and reasonable exercise of its discretionary authority on granting the said transfer. Therefore, the recommendation of the Hearer to reverse the action of the Board is disapproved. * * *
The Association contends on this appeal that N.J.S.A. 33:1-26 and Margate Ordinance No. 730 prohibit the granting of a place-to-place transfer of the plenary retail consumption license to include both premises, and that the Director abused his discretion by approving Manaam's application for such transfer. We disagree.
The responsibility for the administration and enforcement of the alcoholic beverage laws relating to the transfer of a liquor license from place-to-place or to cover enlarged premises is primarily committed to municipal authorities. N.J.S.A. 33:1-19, 24; Lyons Farms Tavern v. Mun. Bd. Alc. Bev., Newark, 55 N.J. 292, 302 (1970). Local boards considering applications for such transfers are invested by our Legislature with wide discretion, and their principal guide in making a determination is the public interest. Id., 303; Lubliner v. Bd. of ...