Point Beach to ABC: Let Bars Close at Midnight
Town and boardwalk bars went before state ABC on Tuesday
Point Beach is telling the state it has every legal right to shut down booze sales at midnight, and the town and the boardwalk bars argued their cases at a state hearing on Tuesday.
Those are the two most recent developments in the ongoing issue of earlier cut-off of alcohol sales: that the town has responded to an appeal filed by Jenkinson's and Martell's and both sides appeared before the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) at a hearing in Trenton on Tuesday.
A recently-adopted ordinance mandates that bars stop serving alcohol by midnight, two hours earlier than the current cut-off, starting July 1. Jenkinson's and Martell's reacted to the ordinance by appeaing to the state ABC, arguing that the state should invalidate the ordinance and grant temporary relief until the ABC makes a final decision.
ABC has said it's the appropriate agency to make a ruling on any legal challenges arising from the bar ordinance and that municipalities have the right to regulate when alcohol can be served. ABC will issue a decision based on the appeal, the response and the arguments made in Trenton on Tuesday.
The town, in its response to the boardwalk's appeal, says the businesses have not cited any sound argument for the state to invalidate the bar ordinance or to order a delay on enforcement.
The town, in the response dated last Friday (see first attached PDF), argues that the boardwalk businesses' claims in its appeal (see second attached PDF) that the ordinance will hurt business, cause job loss and also impact their ongoing business contracts, do not show "irreparable harm" and should not be cited as reasons to undo the new ordinance.
Mayor Vincent Barrella wrote in the response document that one reason earlier talks between Jenkinson's, Martell's and the town failed is that the boardwalk business representatives were unwilling to agree to any of the town's ideas on how to create an enforceable mechanism for the businesses to pay $160,000 for each of the next five years, totalling to $800,000.
Jenkinson's and Martell's had pledged to pay that amount together, though Barrella and the three council members who voted in favor of an earlier alcohol cut-off said they never provided a breakdown regarding which business would pay what percentage of the total and what type of mechanism would be in place to ensure payment and the town's ability to enforce it.
"The businesses made it clear they were not interested in agreeing to anything involving, among other things, license restrictions, parking restrictions, or a special improvement district, though they did recognize some mechanism was needed," Barrella wrote.
Marilou Halvorsen, Jenkinson's Director of Marketing, had said shortly after the last round of talks failed that the offer of $800,000 was "sincere" and that it was up to the town officials to develop a plan for "a mechanism."
Meanwhile, mayors in Manasquan, Belmar and Point Borough have expressed concerns that Point Beach bar patrons, eager to get to bars that stay open past midnight, will take midnight joy rides into their towns, possibly drunk or just plain careless.
The town's proponents of the earlier cut-off have said they had tried in vain to negotiate for earlier last calls (which are frequently around 1:30 a.m.), payments to help with extra police services and other measures, all of which boardwalk businesses rejected.
Boardwalk businesses, in response, have cried that $800,000 should be enough and Barrella and his council supporters are out to hurt them.
In the response to the appeal, Barrella writes that "doing nothing is not an option."
"We cannot afford to devolve into Seaside Heights or Keansburg," Barrella writes. "We have a very small window to prevent this from happening."