Bars may have to choose between closing earlier and ponying up to help pay for police if a proposal is passed into law by Point Beach council.
A majority of council members voted on Tuesday night at Borough Hall to authorize borough Attorney Sean Gertner to draft an ordinance requiring all establishments in Point Beach with consumption liquor licenses to help pay for police if they want to stay open past midnight.
Councilman Michael Corbally made the motion for the proposal at the meeting, including reading from a written version he had prepared.
Councilman William Mayer said to him, "This is the first I'm hearing of this. Did our borough attorney see this?"
"Briefly," Corbally replied.
Mayer said after the meeting that he did not support requiring all bars to either close at midnight or pay a fee based on occupancy to remain open until 2 a.m., but that he voted yes because the motion included an additional condition, "as an alternative to Councilman Corbally's proposal, that Borough Attorney Sean Gertner would consider what financial requirements Point Beach can impose on the Boardwalk bars, as a condition to the renewal of their liquor licenses, to reimburse the Borough for the costs that are incurred to control the adverse consequences to the residential areas resulting from their businesses."
Council members Stephen Reid and Tim Lurie voted against the authorization.
Reid said the idea should have been to help the District 4 community, which includes much of the oceanfront where there are businesses serving alcohol, not to penalize all restaurants and bars in the town.
"This has nothing to do with District 4," Reid said.
Mayor Vincent Barrella said the town is prohibited by law from imposing an earlier closing time on certain bars and not others.
"If the business owners, like Frankie's or 709, don't like closing at midnight, then they would need to call the businesses that created this problem," he said, referring to last summer's upswing in crime on the boardwalk.
Bars must now close at 2 a.m. and many have last call at about 1:15 a.m. or 1:30 a.m.
Gertner said municipalities are permitted to alter the hours of operation of businesses serving alcohol.
Before reading from his written proposal, Corbally said he felt compelled to make the proposal because the talks that have been ongoing with boardwalk businesses since last summer have gone nowhere.
The talks began following the upswing in petty crime and criminal mischief in the boardwalk area last summer.
When asked after the meeting for a copy of his proposal, Corbally said he would not be releasing it yet.
"I want to clean it up first," he said, adding that he may be able to make it available on Wednesday.
Some of that "cleaning up" was prompted by Mayer. During the meeting, Corbally said he wanted to make some revisions to reflect input from Mayer.
Mayer said that despite what Corbally was saying, the ordinance is, in essence, not modeled after The Parker House in Sea Girt which helps pay for police services.
Mayer said that, instead, Corbally's formula uses occupancy rates to determine how much money each business should pay toward police services.
The proposal uses a formula based on maximum occupancy. For example, Barrella said, after the meeting, if an establishment has an occupancy rate of 100, it would cost $10,000 per year to stay open until 2 a.m. on a regular basis.
He said Frankie's, on Route 35, has an occupancy rate of 150, so it would have to pay $15,000 per year to stay open until 2 a.m.
When Barrella mentioned that figure of $15,000 during the meeting, Reid said, "That's unbelievable."
"Unbelievable?" Barrella responded. "So the taxpayers should absorb the cost and put up with all the grief?"
Councilwoman Kristine Tooker noted during the meeting, "Maybe Frankie's would rather stay open only one extra hour, so that would be less money."
"They're not bad people, Kris," Reid said to her.
Barrella emphasized that the council was voting only to have the attorney draft an ordinance which "is subject to change." The council would have to vote to introduce the ordinance at one meeting,where the public can comment during the regular public comment portion, and then, a few weeks later, adopt it at a public hearing where residents would be able to air their views.
The lengthy discussion was part of a meeting that lasted more than three hours.