Martell's is telling Point Beach Mayor Vincent Barrella he won't be allowed to attend the annual Chamber of Commerce Installation dinner at Martell's on Saturday night.
Barrella broke the news at the Tuesday night council meeting, as Ed Brannagan, Martell's manager, and Carol Vaccaro, chamber executive director, sat in the back of the room.
Ronald Gasiorowski, attorney for Martell's, wrote an email to Municipal Attorney Sean Gertner late Tuesday afternoon saying that as Martell's litigation is still pending against the municipality, Barrella will not be allowed to attend the Saturday night event, which is open to the public (see full text of letter as attached PDF).
Barrella said during the meeting, "Usually, I couldn't give a rat's behind. But it's not (about) me. It's disrespectful of the office of the mayor of Point Pleasant Beach."
Barrella noted that the email was cc'd to David Bassinder, former owner of Martell's whose son, Scott Bassinder, had acquired the business.
"This wasn't sent from or cc'd to Scott, so I'm hoping that means he doesn't share his father's opinion," Barrella said.
Chamber honoring local first aid and fire volunteers and municipal police and public works employees for service in Sandy's aftermath
Every year the chamber selects different local business people, officials or residents to honor at the annual Installation Dinner. This year, the chamber is honoring the local volunteer fire and first aid squads and the Point Beach police and Public Works departments.
"Those are my volunteers and employees," said Barrella. "They're honoring police, fire, first aid and DPW. I'm planning on going. If I'm denied, I'm denied. I'll stand outside and greet my employees and volunteers as they walk in."
Barrella also noted that every year he is invited to swear in the new officers of the board of directors of the chamber.
Barrella said, "What complicates this is where the chamber is holding the event. Ed Branagan, the manager of Martell's, is the chamber president. Maybe they chose Martell's in deference to him.
"The chamber is not a political organization," Barrella said.
"It's not like a political organization holding a victory party, a celebration, hosted by a business suing the town," he said, clearly making a reference to the three Republican council members, Bill Mayer, Stephen Reid and Andy Cortes, holding their celebration at Martell's after the Jan. 5 organization meeting.
"Sometimes I may get aggressive in what I say, I probably could have done a better job in the way I approached it," acknowledged Barrella, who once called David Bassinder "a small man" because he asked the town to use its parking lot even as Martell's was suing the town.
At the time, Barrella said, "I would have told him, yes, sure, use our sandy lot. I just can't believe he asked." After the measure got enough council support, Barrella actually did notify Brannagan that Martell's could use the town's lot, but Martell's had decided on a different alternative.
Martell's Manager Says He Didn't Know About the Company Email
During the meeting, Brannagan left the room and Patch followed, asking him if he had known about Gasiorowski's letter.
"No, I didn't know," Brannagan said. "I came to the meeting tonight because I'm president of the chamber now," said Brannagan, who is among those who were to be sworn in by Barrella on Saturday night.
Branagan said he didn't know if Scott Bassinder knew about Gasiorowski's letter.
When asked how he feels about the mayor being kept out of the party, Branagan said, "My goal is to try to bring the town together. There is an anger issue in this town. The businesses have to run their businesses. The parking plan killed our business."
When asked how the parking plan had such a detrimental effect on Martell's, and yet Jenkinson's owners feel it did not significantly hurt their businesses, he said, "I don't know. But I have trouble, as the manager of Martell's, with a parking plan that puts restrictions on our customers."
He did not care to comment on whether Gasiorowski's email should have been sent.
Vaccaro then left the meeting room and was also asked how she felt about the mayor not being allowed into Saturday's event.
"I'm disappointed," she said, declining further comment.
The parking plan is the one remaining sticking point in pending litigation between Martell's and the town.
Originally, Martell's and Jenkinson's had sued the town regarding its proposal mandating that bars stop serving alcohol at midnight, rather than the current 2 a.m. closing.
That ordinance was stayed by the state and is now being repealed by the council members, who agreed that the parking plan combined with an increased police presence was enough to help stem drunkenness, the dumping of trash and loud noise on residential streets in the wee hours during the summer.
Following Sandy, Jenkinson's and Martell's each met with Barrella to try to arrive at a settlement. Jenkinson's decided that if the town dropped the earlier bar closing ordinance, they could live with a parking plan of some sort and withdraw their lawsuit. However, Gasiorowski said Martell's is not backing down on their suit against the parking plan.
On Tuesday night, council voted 4 to 3 for first reading of a revised parking plan that includes District 4, except Channel Drive, adds a small section of District 3 and changes the hours from what had been midnight to 6 a.m. to 12:30 to 4 a.m. (Patch will post a separate story on the parking plan.)
The parking plan will only be in effect in the summer. Second reading and adoption are scheduled for the March 5 council meeting.
Barrella noted this is not the first time David Bassinder has told someone to stay home.
"He did this to Kris Tooker with a county Republican event and cc'd the letter to George Gilmore, the county Republican chair," said Barrella, who had also made reference to that at the January organization meeting, saying Bassinder had uninvited Councilmember Kris Tooker and she was on the committee hosting the event.
Tooker said after Tuesday night's meeting that ever since Bassinder uninvited her from the county Republican event in June 2012, she would not feel comfortable going to Martell's.
After the meeting, when asked if they are going to Martell's Saturday night, Council members Andy Cortes and William Mayer said they are (Patch was unable to catch up with other council members after the late meeting to ask if they are attending).
When asked if Martell's made the right move telling the mayor to stay away, Cortes would only say, "It's hard for people to separate themselves from other issues. It's a chamber function."
Resident Ben DiSpoto said he thought Martell's decision "was not a smart move."