VENTNOR, N.J. — The city of Ventnor, where BYOB restaurants have cropped up in recent years, wanted to take a step toward also having a cool brewpub, or a restaurant that could make its own cocktails, or maybe even a sports bar on Ventnor Avenue, where long-empty storefronts beckon.
Ventnor is not a dry Jersey Shore town like Ocean City — it has plenty of liquor stores, but no bars or restaurants that sell alcohol.
The newly installed city commissioners heard from voters who told them they wanted the downbeach town to offer non-package liquor licenses. Voters approved offering licenses in a November referendum, 2,098 to 1,570.
And so, one of three possible licenses was put up for auction with a minimum bid of $100,000 and various restrictions to prevent the establishment of just a bar or package store, and to encourage an existing restaurant or a new one to offer more of a tavern or food and cocktail experience.
But the taps will remain dry, the cucumber martinis will be available only over the borders.
No bids were received by the Friday deadline, commissioners reported on the town's Facebook page. "We are disappointed to report that the city did not receive any bids for a liquor license today," they wrote. "We will review all formal and informal info received during this process and explore other considerations."
Some early reaction to that was favorable, despite the earlier vote. Visitors are fond of the BYOB option, heading for restaurants and cafes with wine bottles in their coolers. The town has seen the opening of several popular BYOBs along its main streets in the last few years, which some say already gives the town the character it may be seeking. "Who wants it. I love bringing my own stuff," wrote one person.
Others pointed out the proximity of taverns and restaurants in Atlantic City and Margate, particularly Vagabond Tap House & Kitchen at West End and Trenton Avenues — not far from the Ventnor line in Atlantic City — which has always been a gathering spot for Ventnor residents craving craft beer and a burger.
Some questioned whether the fee was too high, discouraging existing restaurants from applying. Four application packets were picked up, the town reported.
It seems likely Ventnor will try again, perhaps with more of a lead time to take advantage of a busy summer season. As one Facebook commenter offered, "Time for a bar!"