Morristown’s council meeting was unusual for two reasons on Tuesday.
It was over in the blink of the eye. And before anyone could blink, town officials were welcoming a new liquor establishment.
When was the last time that happened?
“We wish them great success. It’s exciting to have this energy from these young entrepreneurs,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty, echoing sentiments from Councilwoman Raline Smith-Reid.
The council voted 5-0 to approve the transfer of a liquor store license formerly held by the now-defunct Epstein’s department store to David Bernat and Anthony Dinelli. They plan to open Cambridge Wine Cellars LLC in early July on the retail level of the Highlands at Morristown Station apartments, at the intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Morris Street.
“Morristown is a very sophisticated town, a very affluent area,” Anthony said in an interview. “Obviously, it’s packed with restaurants and most are BYOB. There’s got to be a nice place to get a real nice bottle of wine. In my opinion, this area lacks a great liquor store.”
Anthony, 25, met David, 22, when they were students at Manhattan College; their venture is named for the Bronx street where they roomed together. They have given this liquor store lots of thought, and are aiming squarely at the town’s BYOB crowd.
Look for their “Vino Mobile”–an appropriately named Vespa Vino scooter–to deliver spirits to patrons at sidewalk restaurant tables. For legal reasons, these purchases must be completed over the phone at Cambridge Wine Cellars prior to delivery, said David, a Morristown native and product of Mendham High School.
At their 1,200-square-foot boutique, expect to find rare but affordable wines and craft beers, along with wine tasting events, mixology classes and live music, said David, who was a candidate this spring for a seat on the Morristown Partnership.
The partners, who reside in Morris Plains, plan to promote one BYOB restaurant every month on their website.
Their emphasis will be on service, according to Anthony, who said he learned the value of hospitality while working in Morris Plains at the Grato Ristorante, part of the Harvest chain that includes Roots Steakhouse and Urban Table in Morristown.
“It’s a corporate restaurant but it has a family feel,” Anthony said. “Customer loyalty and attention to detail is everything.
“They are all about the guest. That’s what we’ve learned. It’s not about what wine I would like. It’s about what my customer likes, and finding out what people really want,” he said.
Sometimes that means selling a less pricey product, said David, who grew up around restaurant people.
“A real nice bottle of wine is not always $50,” he said. “A nice bottle can be $14.”
They count at least 20 BYOB restaurants in Morristown, starting with Godfather’s, an East Hanover pizzeria that has announced plans to open a branch next door to the Cambridge boys in Morristown.
David is the marketing side of the tandem, while Anthony is the numbers guy.
“We’ve created an approach where two heads are better than one,” Anthony said.
“Even though we want to kill each other half the time,” David joked. “But always, a good idea comes out.”
IN OTHER COUNCIL BUSINESS…
Another liquor applicant did not feel quite the same love on Tuesday. Uncle Baxter LLC seeks council approval to transfer a liquor license to a pair of vacant storefronts across from Headquarters Plaza, on Speedwell Avenue, to create a two-story bar called Victoria’s Speedwell.
But Councilman Stefan Armington, who toured the premises last week with council members Raline Smith-Reid and Rebecca Feldman, raised questions about trash disposal and dumpster noise, and suggested applicant William Walsh iron out those details with the planning board before requesting a council vote.
No planning board approvals are necessary, countered Robert Williams, the applicant’s lawyer.
Saying he needs to research that point, Town Attorney Vij Pawar promised an answer before next month’s council meeting.
The council also voted unanimously (minus members Rebecca Feldman and Kevin Gsell, who were absent) to reconfigure parking on portions of DeHart, Market and South streets to address residents’ complaints about noise and traffic inconveniences from delivery trucks.
Also introduced was a $1.1 million bond ordinance to fund improvements to roads, sidewalks and the Burnham Park pool.
Money also will go toward the purchase of new public works equipment, repairs to town hall elevators, new bay lighting for the fire house, and $50,000 to replace trees damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
The longest part of the meeting, which ran roughly half an hour, was a presentation about female empowerment by 4th grade Girl Scouts from Maplewood and South Orange. The Scouts recited a credo about the dangers of stereotyping and the rights of women to pursue scientific and technical careers.