Jan. 4—Nearly a half-century of storied Avalon nightlife is up for sale as the Zurawski family has listed the Princeton, the Circle Tavern, the Whitebrier, two liquor licenses, and an entire block of prime Shore land along Dune and Ocean drives.

The asking price? Not specified.

But those in the know say if you're a prospective buyer not thinking in the neighborhood of $65 million, the three-acre property is probably not in your wheelhouse.

The sale has the tony Shore town buzzing, with rumors flying about hotel chains and other potential buyers. Anthony Zurawski, the 80-year-old owner, along with two of his children, had been pressing the town to allow boutique hotels in the area, as median home prices passed $3 million on their way to $4 million.

"Crazy but just heard that Tommy Brady, Serena Williams, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Rick Moranis have bought the block with Princeton & Whitebrier," joked one observer on Facebook. "Their plan is to turn it into 36 pickleball courts."

Zurawski's advocacy for the boutique hotel concept did not go over well in certain Avalon sectors, and the borough has not taken any firm steps to codify the idea. His 2016 application for a 21-room hotel was previously rejected.

While Zurawski noted the success of the Reeds, a luxury boutique hotel in neighboring Stone Harbor, some in Avalon worried that the "Cooler by a Mile" town and its low-rise, low-density, laid-back — albeit already quite upscale — brand were being eroded by the proliferation of massive houses and mixed-use developments.

The loss of family-owned landmarks — including Tonio's Pizza and Sylvester's Seafood, both of which folded last fall — has added to a sense that the Avalon beloved by many older residents is slipping away, block by block.

That feeling is prevalent in other changing Shore communities, like Margate and in towns on Long Beach Island, as sales skyrocketed and older homes were torn down and replaced by higher, fancier summer homes.

Zurawski did not return a message seeking comment.

The listing, at CBRE, notes that the property is in one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.

"The site is across Ocean Drive from the bay and three blocks from the beach in one of the most affluent beach communities on the East Coast," the listing notes. "In 2021, Avalon was ranked as the most expensive zip code in South Jersey and one of the top 100 most expensive zip codes in the United States with average home values surpassing $3.4 million. The average sales price of single-family homes in 2022 year-to-date is over $4 million."

The listing notes that the two businesses, the Princeton and the Whitebrier, generate over $10 million in annual revenue. The site spans 3.12 acres and is located in the B-1 zoning district, which allows for a mix of uses, including retail, restaurants, and residential housing.

Robert Fahey, CBRE executive vice president, referred questions about Zurawski's reasons for selling to the family.

Fahey said the company would be accepting bids on the property until mid-February, in what is effectively a private auction. (Though he added that if Serena Williams walked in with an offer, as the Facebook wags have written, that might wrap things up.)

"We're actively soliciting offers," Fahey said Wednesday. "The opportunity that we're presenting is really twofold: it's a very, very successful food and beverage nightclub operation that's been around for 50 years or more. And there's enough excess land to build 20 or more homes and/or retail establishments."

Zurawski had said this summer he hoped to build a 50-plus-room boutique hotel on the vacant parcel next to the Princeton.

"There should be a couple of boutique hotels along Dune Drive," Zurawski told The Inquirer this summer.

"Everyone knows the positive impact of the Reeds," Zurawski said. "The boutique hotel zone isn't about me. It's about making Avalon a better place."

Ann Delaney, an Avalon Realtor, noted that while the center-of-it-all location, two liquor licenses, and development potential of the land make the property unusual, a similar full-block property, the Golden Inn, sold recently to the Icona company, complete with restaurant, hotel, and liquor license. The Golden Inn is now known as the ICONA Avalon.

Icona also bought the Windrift, another landmark Avalon bar.

Delaney said when she first heard of the sale, she thought "that's Anthony ticked off at the borough," but she also noted that the family has been hard at work, hands on, for nearly a half-century

"His kids run it," she said. "You need an end game. It's a tough business. They've been in the business their whole lives. If they cash out, good for them."

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