Point Beach Mayor Vincent Barrella said at Tuesday night's council meeting that he would be willing to repeal the proposed earlier bar closing ordinance if all lawsuits against that and the District 4 parking plan were first dropped.
During his committee report, Barrella brought up the topic of the controversial earlier bar closing proposal that was temporarily "stayed" by the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and still being fought in litigation filed by Jenkinson's and Martell's.
"If the lawsuits were dropped, I'd have no problem dropping the midnight bar closing ordinance," he said. "But you can't withdraw an ordinance while litigation is pending."
He said after the meeting, "I was told that the bars have been trying to quiet down their customers before they leave the bars. We've told them we don't want them over-serving. They've said they don't do that. If they double down on all of this, then we don't need the belt and the suspenders if the belt works."
"The belt" is the District 4 parking plan which Barrella and Councilmember Kris Tooker have said went a long way towards keeping District 4 more peaceful this past summer.
"This summer was substantially better," Barrella said, adding he feels the combination of the parking plan and 88 special police officers on the boardwalk and on the streets is what improved conditions this summer.
When asked why he made his comments Tuesday night, he said, "It's important for the boardwalk businesses to know I'm willing to compromise because they really don't think I'm willing to do that."
He said and council repeatedly tried to compromise, but that the boardwalk wasn't willing to do the same to an extent that made a difference.
The decision to undo an ordinance would mostly be up to the Point Beach Council, which would have to vote by simple majority to repeal the ordinance passed earlier this year, in response to a torrent of complaints about tourists behaving badly in the summer of 2011. Barrella only votes if there is a tie. Council members did not discuss Barrella's idea at the meeting.
Boardwalk businesses and others who have sued the town for its ordinances for earlier bar closings and the parking plan could not be reached after the meeting due to the lateness of the hour.
Just before Barrella's committee report, Councilman Michael Corbally said he has been meeting with a committee comprised of Point Beach Chamber of Commerce members and residents to talk about how to improve the town's image.
The committee has heard from some marketing professionals about how to better convey the image of a town that attracts families who keep coming back to Point Beach for summer fun.
Barrella said he agrees with the committee's concept of Point Beach as a family tourism destination.
"We want people to know we are a family resort," Barrella said. "A family resort with adult recreation, yes, that has a place. But a family resort."
An administrative law judge will be ruling on the merits of the ordinance, and then Halfacre gets the last word. So, the town could wind up winning and still have an ordinance to close bars earlier.
The District 4 parking plan was put in place on municipal roads until Sept. 15. It prohibits parking on town-owned roads in District 4 from midnight to 6 a.m.
After the meeting, Barrella said he is still convinced the town considered and crafted both ordinances the right way and would win in court.
"I actually think we would win big," he said. "But we don't have to necessarily win big. Winning isn't always the best way to get things done, because it will just drive a further wedge between us and we still have to work together."
The ordinance creating the parking plan was only for one summer. So if the plan is to resume next summer, the council would have to pass a new ordinance.
"What does the council think needs to be done in terms of parking restrictions for next summer?" Barrella asked. "Let's get it done now so next year we are in a position to ask the chamber to highlight the fact that the Silver Lake lot (corner of Arnold and Ocean avenues) is free from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m."
"So bring your notes and thoughts with you to the next meeting," Barrella said, looking around at the council members.
Ocean County did not allow the town to implement the plan on county roads even though it has allowed Seaside Heights to have a far more restrictive plan on the many county roads in Seaside for more than a decade.
Now Seaside wants to take over at least some of the county roads, a notion the county is apparently entertaining.
Barrella said after the meeting that if the county allows Seaside to do that, he is hopeful they will allow Point Beach to take over some of the county roads in the town. That would allow the town to implement the parking plan on all roads in District 4.
When asked after the meeting if any boardwalk owners or representatives have been talking to any of the council members to him about possibly dropping any lawsuits, Barrella said no. When asked if they have been talking about that to any council members, he said, "Yes, I think some discussions have been taking place" but would not elaborate on who has been talking to whom.