Late-night partiers at Point Pleasant Beach's bars have gotten at least a temporary reprieve from an early last call.
Ordinances calling for bars to stop serving alcohol two hours earlier and one allowing bars to pay fees to stay open later were both "carried," or postponed until the May 15 Point Beach Council meeting by the Point Beach Council on Tuesday night.
There were two separate votes to "carry" each of the two ordinances regarding hours for bars to serve alcohol. The decision to "carry" was made at the request of an attorney for Jenkinson's to give boardwalk business owners and elected officials more time to meet privately to try to come up with a solution.
The votes to carry both ordinances were cast by council members Bret Gordon, William Mayer, Tim Lurie and Stephen Reid.
Council members Kristine Tooker and Michael Corbally voted against carrying both ordinances.
Mayor Vincent Barrella did not vote, but spoke in favor of carrying the ordinances to allow more time for council members and the borough attorney to meet with boardwalk business owners to try to come up with a solution.
The first ordinance would have mandated that bars stop serving alcohol at midnight. The second would have allowed bars to pay fees, based on maximum occupancy multiplied by a rate of $60.
Two weeks ago, when the ordinances regarding bars were supported on first reading, they were opposed by Lurie, Reid and Mayer and supported by council members Tooker, Gordon, Corbally and Barrella, who broke a tie. The mayor can only vote when there is a tie, as called for in the mayor-borough council form of government.
Even if the ordinances are adopted, they will not go into effect until July 1.
Edward McGlynn, Jenkinson's attorney, asked the council to move the ordinances from the end of the agenda to the beginning of the agenda and the council agreed.
McGlynn noted that on Friday afternoon, he, Jenkinson's owners Anthony and Frank Storino, Scott Bassinder, owner and president of Martell's, his father, David Bassinder, Ron Gasiorowski, attorney for Martell's, Mayer, Gordon, Barrella, and Borough Attorney Sean Gertner, had a good meeting to discuss a possible "settlement agreement."
McGlynn said both sides stated their positions on the issue. He also said that Jenkinson's may consider bringing an action against the that was adopted two weeks ago and that they may take legal action against the bar ordinances if adopted.
The parking regulations would limit on-street parking in the area closest to borough beaches to those with resident stickers. The regulations have sparked a debate as to whether they would encourage drunk driving since bar patrons would no longer be able to leave their cars overnight on local streets.
"We requested that we have the opportunity to review what you had proposed and that we could meet with our clients and schedule another meeting with you to be held at a date in the future, prior to the May 15 council meeting," McGlynn said. "I think we kind of reached agreement that at least as far as this evening is concerned, I would request that these two particular ordinances would not be acted upon.... and would be carried until May 15."
There was a low groan in the audience as he said that from a couple of residents who feel the town has taken too long already to adopt the ordinances.
McGlynn said he can meet with borough officials on Monday.
"We would like the opportunity to meet with you again and see if some common ground can be reached between the parties," McGlynn said.
Barrella said to McGlynn, "I hope you understand if the borough acts on the 15th, that should not be an impediment to future discussions if we feel that would be beneficial."
"Remarkable, we totally agree," said McGlynn.
Ben Dispoto, a resident, asked the council, "You've already talked about this. Is something new? Did something change? We should protect ourselves. The businesses can protect themselves. Why don't you as a council protect us? So why don't you pass this? If there are new conditions, we can work from there.
"This is stall, delay, drag out," Dispoto said. "I think you have to defend what you propose and say OK, there is where we stand. If some magical bullet appears between now and May 15, all well and good." But, barring that, "It's time to move," he said.
Several others in the audience told the council they are in favor of the two ordinances being carried to May 15.
For example, Dan Friendly, who lives on Ocean Avenue, said it doesn't bother him when people yell and scream outside his home in the middle of the night. He said he runs a restaurant in western New Jersey and he has heard patrons saying they are cancelling plans to come to Point Beach this summer.
Sharon Cadalzo, a resident running as a Democrat for a council seat, said she favors carrying the ordinances until May 15.
"The downtown has been doing tremendously well and that's something we should be proud of," she said. "If we change bar hours, that will kill our downtown."
Barrella asked her, "If you were up here at the May 15th meeting, and we carried this, and we find ourselves with the state usurping our authority, what are you going to tell those people out there? How are you going to explain that your inaction led to the state taking action?"
Barrella was referring to the state possibly passing a bill that might impact the town's ability to impose fees on bars that serve alcohol later than midnight.
She said, "If elected, I would represent all residents in town. I don't think we should hurt business at this time."
Officiials have indicated the state legislature may introduce the bill on Thursday. Gov. Christie told a radio station it will be passed by July 1.
Stan Angeloni, a Chicago Avenue resident, spoke in favor of the town passing the two ordinances, saying the bar patrons are littering the nearby streets, including his own, and detracting from the overall quality of life.
James Dattoli, Bay Avenue, spoke against the ordinances and asked for more and better police service.
"I have nothing to do monetarily with any of the bars or restaurants here, but I have friends working in other restaurants and restaurants are hurting," Dattoli said. "I think it's better to not pass it because I think there are a lot of other legal issues and it could cost the town a heck of a lot more money."
"You want to enlighten us?" Barrella asked.
Dattoli said, "I could meet with you. If the town gets sued, who's paying the attorneys to defend the town?"
Barrella said, "Because of a threat of a lawsuit, should the council run and hide?"
Dattoli countered, "That's not everyone's opinion."
The idea behind the ordinances is to generate more revenue to help pay for police services.
Even the council members who voted for the ordinances have said they really did not want to pass it, they were only voting for it after other efforts had failed, including trying to persuade bar owners to move up last call, or to pay special event fees, or to make a payment to the town to help pay for police services.
Last year, faced with numerous residents complaining about people throwing trash, screaming, urinating, vomiting, having sex and falling asleep in front of, behind, and alongside their homes near the boardwalk,
That was the best way, at the time, to increase police service because the town could not hire special police officers in the middle of the summer because they go through training at the Ocean County Police Academy and the Point Beach police department, so there wasn't enough time to put them through training and on duty before the summer ended.
Because of their experience last year, the council planned this year to have more special police officers working this summer.
Police Chief Kevin O'Hara said, in an email, that this summer the town will have 55 new special officers, in addition to the standard level of staffing of specials and the department's 22 full-time regular officers.
The breakdown of specials is as follows, O'Hara said:
The department will have 63 class II special police officers, 40 of whom are new and graduate the Ocean County Police Academy on May 24. They are authorized to carry firearms and are paid about $10 per hour.
The department will also have 25 class I specials, 15 of whom are new and finished training by the end of April. They are paid $8 to $8.50 per hour and handle class traffic direction and minor violations.
The pay rates for class I and class II officers has not increased in the past years, O'Hara said.
"We will also have 15 parking enforcement officers, four part-time dispatchers for the Boardwalk and our regular staff of full time personnel," O'Hara said.
Regarding the overall police budget, there are separate line items for regulars (year round, permanent, full-time officers), specials and one for parking enforcement officers, O'Hara said. The salary budget for the whole year is $2.2 million, he said.
Thiis year, the police department was given $398,000 for specials and $57,000 for parking, O'Hara said just before the Tuesday night meeting started (while the council was in closed session).
The bulk of that amount for specials is spent during the summer, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, when the majority of specials work, he said. Specials are used minimally in the off-season.
Regarding the nature of the greatest amount of problems during the summer weekends, O'Hara said, "I can say they're alcohol-related. Where that's being consumed I really can't pinpoint. You could have a group out of control at the train station. Where did they all drink? Who knows?"
For example, if someone on Ocean Avenue is drunk, there are four to five different liquor licenses in that one area, so it's hard to say exactly where they drank, O'Hara said.
"They could have started at one place and then went to another place. They could have drank at a rental. It's hard to pinpoint."