Andiamo liquor license approval comes with controversy

By: Nick Powers | C&G Newspapers | Published May 31, 2024

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — One of Clinton Township’s remaining Class C liquor licenses went to a new arrival at The Mall at Partridge Creek, albeit a familiar name in Michigan.

The Clinton Township Board of Trustees awarded the new Andiamo Pasta & Chops location with a Class C liquor quota license at its May 13 meeting.

The township has two remaining licenses to distribute. It receives a set number of licenses from the state after each census and won’t get more until 2030. The application fee is $1,850. Clerk Kim Meltzer explained that the allotted licenses are tied to population growth in the township.

“It’s definitely an economic tool and that’s the whole reason behind it,” Meltzer said following the meeting.

Andiamo’s license still needs approval by the state. At press time, the restaurant’s application was still pending. David Marvin, deputy director of the Executive Services Division of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, says it can take about three to six months for the overall process to be completed, though it does go faster for applicants who already have an approved license.

“Once you’re licensed in one place, getting another license is much simpler,” Marvin said. “There are a number of things we don’t need to get from you. We don’t need fingerprints, we don’t have to do as much of a background check…it’s a much simpler process.”

The last license went to Canteen Golf and Billiards, a new business that opened its doors in March.

Clinton Township Trustee Julie Matuzak said Andiamo getting one of the licenses is different.

“Giving one to one of the largest restaurant corporations in the country seems absurd to me,” Matuzak said. “We have three of these left. We have a lot of years to go. We have some amazing residents with amazing ideas for businesses. We ought to be using those licenses to help those.”

Clinton Township Trustee Mike Keys agreed with Matuzak, adding that these licenses need to be advertised to businesses on Gratiot and Groesbeck Highway.

“I think it’s a little appalling that we as a board would be looking to give one of the largest corporations in the country this type of kickback here in Clinton Township,” Keys said.

Aside from Andiamo, which has seven locations, the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group also includes Joe Muer Seafood, The Statler, Birmingham Pub, Bronze Door, 29º41º Mediterranean Street Food, Vito’s Bakery and The Country Inn. In total, it has over 20 restaurants.

Cannon said at the meeting that businesses receiving the license have varied in size over the years.

“It’s not just today, it’s through the history of these licenses,” Cannon said. “We don’t have people lined up to get them.”

Cannon added that Andiamo owner Joe Vicari was an active part of the community. He mentioned Vicari lives, goes to church and has another business in the township.

“He’s always supported Clinton Township. I think it’s time for us to support him,” he said.

Bob Kirk, Vicari’s attorney, pushed back on the size of the chain at the meeting. He stressed that, other than businesses in Nashville and Las Vegas, most of the Vicari’s locations are in Michigan. Kirk estimated the cost of buying the license would be $50,000 to $100,000.

“It’s a huge undertaking to take over this space,” Kirk said. “Rents are high at Partridge Creek. He’s put a lot of money into it. The whole inside is getting demoed.”

Though the commission plays no role in the pricing of licenses on the open market, Marvin said he often sees them fluctuate.

“I’ve seen them range all over the place,” he said. “It just depends on the buyer, the seller, the motivation and a variety of other factors. There is no one thing.”

Meltzer explained that, in addition to the Class C licenses, the township also distributes specially designated merchant licenses. She estimated that the township has about 20 of those. They are allotted following the census and allow businesses to distribute beer and wine for customers to drink elsewhere.

She said specialty designated distributor licenses are the most costly to businesses. They are distributed for a population increase of 3,000 per census. Meltzer said the township received one in the last census, which was awarded to the British Petroleum gas station on Hall Road and Gratiot Avenue. Such licenses allow the sale of products that are over 10% alcohol by volume to take home.

Cannon; trustees Tammy Patton and Dan Kress; and Meltzer voted to approve the license. Trustees Matuzak and Keys, and Treasurer Paul Gieleghem, voted no.

Last year, the board faced a similar debate when grocer Vince & Joe’s was awarded a Class C license. While the license was unanimously awarded by the board, Matuzak was skeptical.

“You guys are a great business, an established business — you get all of my business,” Matuzak is quoted as saying in a previous C & G Newspapers article. “But that does bother me, that we’re giving up one of these licenses when I would hope we would be using them to attract new businesses and to keep developing this great place.”

Seth Tompkins, attorney for Vince & Joe’s, said by going to the township for the new license, the grocer avoided paying for an existing license, which he valued around $65,000.