Members of the Moorestown Township Council officially approved the allowance of liquor at the Moorestown Mall, but could legal action be far behind?
Council members adopted an ordinance on second reading allowing full-service restaurants serving alcoholic beverages to operate in a specially restricted commercial zone in the township, which only includes Moorestown Mall property.
Niall O’Brien, an attorney from Archer and Greiner, said his client, the East Gate Shopping Center, objects to the ordinance and said it’s an example of “spot zoning,” because it only applies to the Moorestown Mall.
Residents in Moorestown approved a referendum in the November general election allowing for the sale of liquor licenses only at the Moorestown Mall, owned by Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust.
The referendum technically allows liquor licenses to be sold to “indoor shopping complexes” at the tax lot in the SRC zoning district.
Right across the street from the mall is the East Gate Shopping Center, O’Brien said, a grouping of shops and restaurants that are in both Moorestown and Mt. Laurel.
East Gate is in the same SRC zone, but does not have an indoor shopping complex so it cannot bid on liquor licenses.
East Gate Shopping Center is an extremely similar piece of property, O’Brien said, with shoppers only having to use sidewalks to get from store to store.
It was unconstitutional for the council to put forth the referendum in the first place, O’Brien said.
Mayor John Button asked Township Solicitor Thomas Coleman III if anything said by O’Brien could stop the council from voting on the ordinance.
Coleman said it was his opinion there was no problem with council members moving forward with the ordinance.
Throughout the process, Coleman has maintained the state and the Alcoholic Beverage Control have said the referendum and its restrictions are legal.
Council members passed the ordinance unanimously.
O’Brien said his group has 45 days to appeal the ordinance, but no decision has been reached yet on future action.