The University has entered into a contract with local restaurateur Jack Morrison to purchase a liquor license for $1.5 million, according to records obtained by The Daily Princetonian under a request from the town of Princeton.
Morrison had previously purchased the license for about $1 million, according to Planet Princeton. Hedeclined to comment.
Terra Momo, a local restaurant group, had previously ended lease discussions with the University that had started in 2013, in which Terra Momo would have operated the restaurant and café area in the forthcoming Arts and Transit Neighborhood.
Ending the discussions was mutual and “amicable,” and the issue of obtaining a special permit liquor license was not a factor, Terra Momo Group co-owner Raoul Momo said. He declined to specify the reason behind the termination of the negotiation.
“It was a business decision,” Momo said. “Every company has opportunities, and [Terra Momo] made a decision not to pursue this one.”
Liquor licenses in New Jersey towns cannot exceed a certain number determined by the town's population. Although all of the liquor licenses in Princeton are currently taken, Morrison's license is the only one that is unused.
The University will look both within and beyond Princeton to choose another operator for the eateries, University spokesperson Martin Mbugua said.
Initial drafts of the agreement drawn between Terra Momo and the University included a clause stating Terra Momo would have to exercise “its reasonable best efforts to obtain and pay for a liquor license at its own expense,” according to documents obtained by Planet Princeton.
However, Terra Momo did not consider purchasing a liquor license from another business because it would be prohibitively expensive, Momo said in an interview with the ‘Prince’ in October.
Momo said the restaurant group also briefly considered filing for a special concessionaire’s permit to serve alcohol in the eateries, a type of permit that the state grants to businesses that are deemed to be of public benefit.
Ultimately, Terra Momo decided not to file an application for the permit because the University, unlike most recipients of the permit, operates on public property, Momo said.
The restaurant and café were originally slated to open in summer 2015, and according to Mbugua, the search for a new operator is not expected to delay its completion.
“The project remains on track, and the specific opening date will be determined in coordination with the new operator,” Mbugua said.