The state of New Jersey is seeking to revoke the liquor license for one of President Donald Trump’s golf clubs – a rare and potentially damaging punishment, triggered by a 2015 case where the Trump club allegedly over-served alcohol to a man who then caused a fatal wreck.
That proposed punishment was laid out in an Oct. 21 letter to the Trump golf course in Colts Neck, New Jersey. The Washington Post obtained the letter through a public-records request.
The office of New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, which sent the letter, declined to comment about the letter. Grewal was appointed in 2018 by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
The letter gives few details about the alleged misconduct by Trump’s course. The man that the club is accused of over-serving, Andrew Halder, caused a wreck that killed his own father and last year pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide.
Trump’s company was given 30 days to challenge the planned revocation. If the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control does decide to revoke the license, Trump can challenge that decision in court or try to get it reinstated in two years.
The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
If the club’s liquor license is revoked, that would be a blow for the Colts Neck course, located near the Jersey Shore. The club could lose significant revenue from the two restaurants and a bar it operates for members, and find it hard to attract banquets or golf tournaments from outsiders.
But for Trump, the potential damage is greater than that.
Under New Jersey law, anyone who has one liquor license revoked must also give up all their other liquor licenses for two years. Trump has two other New Jersey golf clubs, including the one in Bedminster that he uses as a summer White House.
Now, he could be faced with losing a key source of revenue at those clubs, too.
The letter sent to the Trump course says that this punishment is related to the club’s actions on Aug. 30, 2015.
On that day, the letter says, the Trump club violated the terms of its license by serving a man named Andrew Halder when Halder already appeared intoxicated. It also says the club violated its license by selling alcoholic drinks other than beer on carts roaming the golf course itself.
The state’s letter does not give more details about that day. But it says that the Trump club’s actions included “aggravating circumstances” that justified more than the usual punishment.
In this case, the state said, normal punishment would be a 25-day suspension of the liquor license. But, the letter says “in this case, the [state] will seek revocation of the license based upon the total circumstances,” says the letter, signed by a deputy state attorney general, Andrew Sapolnick.
The ability to sell alcohol is crucial for any golf course, because it allows owners to draw extra revenue from members and to book banquets for outside guests, said Jay Karen, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association. Karen said that golf courses are typically low-profit-margin businesses, and alcohol sales present a rare chance for high markups.
Karen said it would be difficult for most courses to survive financially if they could not sell alcohol.
“Could it be done? Sure. In theory, yes. But it would be really, really hard,” Karen said. If a license was revoked, he said, “I think the word would get out, and people would look elsewhere to play.”
New Jersey prosecutors said that Halder – the man who the Trump course allegedly over-served – flipped his car about 3 p.m. that day, on a highway ramp about four miles from the Trump course.
The car rolled, and Halder’s father Gary – a passenger in the car – was thrown from the wreck. Gary Halder later died at a hospital, according to news reports.
At the time, police said Andrew Halder had come from playing a round of golf, and that his blood alcohol was above the legal limit. Online court records show that Halder, now 39, pleaded guilty in early 2018 to vehicular homicide. He was sentenced to three years’ probation.
Halder’s attorney, Robert Honecker, declined to comment on Thursday.
Trump bought the Colts Neck golf club in August 2008 for $28 million, taking out an $18 million loan from New Jersey-based Amboy Bank that he is still paying off. In 2018, the club saw its revenue decline about 5%, according to Trump’s most recent personal financial disclosures.