Last week, a local newspaper published a letter to the editor called Golf….’Common Sense’ from local resident, Michael J. Lange Jr.. Mr. Lange is a Brigantine Firefighter, a Real Estate appraiser and (from what we understand) an avid golfer. His letter in the Brigantine Times (see below) caught the attention of Brigantine Councilman, Tony Pullella.
Mr. Pullella responds to Mr. Lange here…
Some background information: The golf course in Brigantine was designed by Wayne Stiles in 1927. I believe our golf course is an asset to the city and it should always remain as open space and a golf facility. I was an active member of the Brigantine Chamber of Commerce since 1988. I served as a member of the Board of Directors for 15 consecutive years and 2 years as its vice president.
Re: Mike Lange Jr’s comments about my relationship with LaMott Smith, General Manager of the golf course under American Golf’s ownership (in the 90’s). During LaMott’s tenure as president of the chamber, we worked side by side on chamber business and had a close working relationship, as it pertained to our private business operations.
When American Golf purchased the golf course around 1990, there was no liquor license at the course. They hired a lobbyist in an attempt to expand private club licenses as it pertained to public golf courses. Their lobbying efforts were unsuccessful. I was a member of the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association (NJLBA), and a past president of the Atlantic City Licensed Beverage Association. Our trade group was opposed to such legislation.
On or about 1997/1998, American Golf was able to purchase the liquor license of a local establishment (Circle Tavern-which had closed). I called LaMott and congratulated him on the acquisition of the license. LaMott and I worked closely together and promoted each others businesses.
In 2002 the city of Brigantine purchased the course from American Golf. The city did not purchase their liquor license. It was sold to Venticello Restaurant for nearly $250,000.00. The golf course manager was granted a state concessionaire’s permit (a free liquor license available to entities operating municipally-owned golf courses). This permit was not issued to the municipality, and the law does not permit a municipality from having a ﬁnancial interest in the liquor operation. Although the permit was issued in the name of the golf course manager, the City itself was the true party in interest, improperly collecting revenues from alcoholic beverage sales and improperly paying alcoholic beverage wholesalers for the alcoholic beverage sold at the golf course.
Here is a short explanation how this ﬁnancial arrangement between the city and Meadowbrook (golf course manager) concerned local businesses. The city permitted the golf course to display & solicit their food and beverage operation (eg. Mother’s Day, Easter brunch/dinner, dinner specials, etc.) in city hall and channel 2, while other restaurants could not. At least ten Brigantine food establishments signed a petition that either golf course display be removed or allow all local businesses to do so. Eventually it was removed, but the advertising continued on channel 2.
In a letter dated June 30, 2004 from the Brigantine Beach Licensed Beverage Association, sent to the director of the division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, a request was made for information of the 12 page application for the concessionaire’s permit. It was sent certiﬁed- return receipt requested. No reply was ever received from the state. On February 2005, a local attorney, Scott Silver sent a letter to the Director of ABC, referencing our letter of 2004, again requesting a copy of the 12 page application. Again no reply was obtained.
Through additional research by Mr. Silver and numerous conversations with the ABC director, the division looked into the matter and concluded that the city must discontinue their direct involvement in the liquor operation at the golf course. This determination was late in 2009.
The response to Mike Lange’s question, “How is it possible that a person (Tony), who sued the City of Brigantine over its operation of the Links at Brigantine Beach, is now permitted to make ﬁnancial decisions of the very entity he chose to ﬁle suit against?” Neither I nor any of the Association members ever sued the city. However, we did have concerns regarding the operation. (I challenge Mike Lange to produce proof of any such suit.)
The golf course industry is in a deep decline. In reference a to NewYork Times article of April 18, 2014……”The golf course industry has lost 5 million players in the last decade”, according to the National Golf Foundation. Brigantine’s 2014 city budget shows a deﬁcit in the golf course utility of $765,000, based on year to date revenue ﬁgures obtained from the golf course (8/15/14). I believe the golf course will require approximately $200,000 from the taxpayers, for the 2015 budget to support the golf course. These ﬁgures do not include the 2 million dollars needed to improve and upgrade the conditions of the golf course (as per Stephen Kay, Brigantine’s golf course consulting architect).
This is why I, ALONG WITH COUNCIL MAJORITY, believe that a long term lease to a 3rd party professional golf company is in the best interest of the city and its taxpayers.
Regarding any members of council having a personal interest in the RFP process- I agree that they should be excluded from any such interest. I am not aware of any member of council, including myself, that has an interest in the golf course or the food and beverage operation.
Sincerely, Tony Pullella, Council-at-Large
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