West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh has vetoed an ordinance that would have forced two existing Route 1 hotels — along with any new hotels built in the township — to bid on the issuance of liquor licenses. ##M:[more]##

The ordinance, approved by council by a 3-2 vote on October 18, required both the Hyatt Regency and Palmer Inn to pay the township for new licenses, despite the fact that they have been operating under licenses issued by the state for almost 20 years.

Both hotels originally obtained their licenses under a statute that allowed hotels with more than 100 rooms to obtain liquor licenses without having to go through the bidding process communities must conduct for new bar and package store licenses.

After the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control recently allowed towns the option of requiring hotels to bid on liquor licenses, Hsueh proposed an ordinance to council that would have required all new hotels to have to bid on licenses, but would have grandfathered the Hyatt and Palmer Inn.

Hsueh says he vetoed the amended ordinance passed by council because in the long run it would wind up costing the township thousands of dollars in costly litigation, anticipating lawsuits by the Hyatt and Palmer Inn if they are forced to bid on new licenses.

The mayor also urged that council retain the grandfather clause before it approved the measure. “I believe that it is anti-business to ask a hotel such as the Hyatt, which has had a license for over 17 years, to now publicly bid to retain that benefit,” said Hsueh in a memo to council dated October 4. “When I asked the township attorney to draft the ordinance, it was never my intention to have it apply to existing licenses, but rather to new applicants who would be fully aware of the consequences of seeking the benefit.”

Despite Hsueh’s objections, the majority of council opted for a version of the ordinance that forces the existing hotels to bid on new licenses if they want to continue to have the ability to serve alcoholic beverages.

Council members voting in favor of the measure — Alison Miller, Charles Morgan, and Jacqueline Alberts — said they believe eliminating the grandfather clause is a good way to raise additional revenues for the township. Morgan also argued that the Hyatt and Palmer Inn should have to bear the same burden as any new hotels built in the township.

The last liquor license sold in West Windsor in 2002 went for $595,"000. Officials estimated that passage of the ordinance could raise as much as $1.2 million in revenue next year. Also, according to Hsueh, there are at least three new hotels that would be potential bidders on new hotel liquor licenses in the near future.

Council President Franc Gambatese and Kristin Appelget voted against the measure, stating it is unfair to force the hotels — which have been good, long-time commercial residents — to pay for licenses they have held for many years.

Now that Hsueh has vetoed the ordinance, either Appelget or Gambatese would have to change their mind in order to generate enough votes to override the mayor’s veto. Under the township’s administrative code, an override requires a two-thirds majority of council — a 4-1 vote.

There are currently 10 liquor licenses — including the Hyatt’s and Palmer Inn’s — in West Windsor, but only eight were awarded by the township.