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Blend liquor license is golden in Ridgewood

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2008 at 9:31 pm

The Record
Sunday, October 26, 2008
By ELISA UNG
RESTUARANT REVIEWER

Blend’s demise could end up turning into a bargain for the highest bidder.

The Ridgewood restaurant, bar and lounge best known for bringing in musical acts closed in August, and a bankruptcy filing last month revealed that it was buried under a $4 million debt, not to mention back taxes.

Thursday, what’s left of Blend will go on public auction. This includes the lease to the space, all of the furniture and equipment, and the crowning glory: the liquor license.

Sure, the economy is fragile. But licenses to sell liquor are prized and expensive in New Jersey. Despite a busy downtown district filled with restaurants, Ridgewood has just eight licenses.

So a suddenly available license with an open-ended price tag has some restaurateurs hoping for a deal.

Ridgewood resident William Cron, the executive chef and owner of the 200 Main Street restaurant in New Milford, is considering a bid for the whole package — the lease, the restaurant equipment and the license. Cron has 200 Main Street up for sale and has been looking to move on.

“I know some people in the band business, people who have played there [at Blend], so that gives me an idea” of what might be involved, said Cron, who toured the space along with more than a dozen restaurateurs at an open house Wednesday.

The Blend space covers two floors; at street level is the main dining room, while downstairs is the lounge and kitchen. Blend had a lively bar scene and featured a number of musical acts each week.

Blend’s liquor license has attracted the interest of Nick Russo, a prominent real estate broker and landlord to the Ridgewood restaurants Dim Sum Dynasty and Kumo. Russo said this week that if he was successful in his bid, he hoped to either resell the license or somehow allow one of his tenants use it. He said Dim Sum Dynasty’s staff, in particular, might be interested.

Two others who said they are considering bidding on the license are Ed Sullivan, who owns the Blend property, and Lisa Mayisoglu, the owner of Lisa’s Turkish Kitchen on Chestnut Street.

Other restaurateurs say the economy is giving them pause.

“Two years ago, I would not even think twice” about trying to acquire the license, said Abele Oscar Riva, the owner of Trattoria Fratelli on Ridgewood Avenue. Now, he’s wary of making such a big investment when restaurant business is slowing in general. His wife and co-owner, Sara Riva, adds that remaining a BYO may actually be an asset at a time when diners are looking for value.

Harry Byrnes, a partner at Springfield-based A.J. Willner Auctions who is running the auction, said he plans to first solicit bids for the lease, equipment and license as a package deal. Then, he’ll ask for bids for the separate elements and evaluate which alternative would raise more money. The funds will go to pay off Blend’s debt.

“The highest and best use is all together, as a package,” to one person or company who would use the liquor license to open a restaurant in that spot, Byrnes said. He added that the equipment is in “good condition.” There is no minimum bid, though the bankruptcy court must approve the winning amount. During last week’s open house, he told a restaurant owner that he would love to get $700,000 for the whole package.

That could be a relative bargain, given that Ridgewood’s only other available liquor license alone comes with a $600,000 minimum. No one bit during two solicitations this year, said Ridgewood clerk Heather Mailander.

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  1. A wise investory can profit well during poor economic times. If you have the money you can buy more for less and may do very well in the long run. The question is can you aford the risk? Today I can’t, but good luck to someone who can!

  2. Ed Sullivan comes out a winner here……he owns the property as the landlord and now has the liquor license and can do what he wants with it…….he controls his own destiny here.

    Congrats—-Ed

  3. Hi Everyone,

    My name is Jim Arakelian of RE/MAX Real Estate Limited in Oradell and I am the listing broker of BLEND BAR.

    I have been involved in several high profile liquor license / bar / restaurant transfers in North Jersey in the past few years.

    As you might have read in Friday’s Ridgewood News, we are currently negotiating with several operators in the area, however, we are still interested in finding others that may be interested.

    Please fell free to contact me directly if you know of someone that would be interested in re-opening one of Bergen County’s crown jewels of entertainment. My direct number is 201-599-1100 x304.

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