Point Beach Council Votes For Midnight Bar Closings

UPDATE: Council votes for preliminary approval for second ordinance giving bars the option to pay fees to stay open until 2 a.m.

Point Beach council voted on Tuesday night for bars to close at midnight, two hours earlier than the current 2 a.m. closing time.

Councilmembers Kristine Tooker, Bret Gordon and Michael Corbally voted for the earlier bar closing, while Councilmembers William Mayer, Tim Lurie and Stephen Reid voted against it. That left Mayor Vincent Barrella to break the tie, and he voted yes.

The ordinance goes into effect on July 1.

The council also voted for preliminary approval for a second ordinance which is the current closing time. However, councilmembers agreed to postpone the deadline for bars to request a later closing time from the town. That deadline had been May 24 but was moved to June 25.

The date change means council will have to vote on the original ordinance, with the new amendment for the date change, at a meeting in June.

Corbally was the lone no vote on the second ordinance. He said after the meeting that he voted no because he does not know if the state will approve the ordinance and because he hopes a different alternative can be worked out with the boardwalk.

The state Department of Community Affairs wrote a letter to Barrella saying

The town and boardwalk businesses had several private negotiation sessions recently, with the hope that an agreement could avert the need for earlier bar closings.

Jenkinson's and Martell's offered a joint payment of $160,000 per year for five  years, totalling to $800,000 and then the arrangement would be re-visited.

The meeting room at Point Beach was packed with residents, boardwalk and bar employees and media from all over the tri-state area.

The tension in the small, seaside town, which has only 5,000 year-round residents, was pronounced, with employees saying it could hurt or even eliminate their jobs, and residents complaining about bar patrons urinating, defecating and dumping litter on their properties.

Aleta Weinstein, who lives in the oceanfront Harbor Head development, said she has not been able to keep her windows open for the past five summers because of the drunken patrons making noise in the middle of the night and defecating on her property.

Frank Kinneavy, owner of Frankie's Bar and Grill, on Route 35, told the council he has a unique perspective on how earlier bar closings affect a community.

He said when his other business, Rod's Tavern, in Sea Girt had to close at midnight in 1984, that only sent patrons speeding off to Manasquan to drink at bars there.

He said earlier bar closings create the problem of bar patrons driving out of Point Beach at midnight to go to drink at bars in other towns and, if they are staying in Point Beach, then driving back into town drunk.

"Closing bars at 12 will not solve any problems, it will only create a lot of problems," he said.

He said the mayor, council, bars, businesses and police need to work together to come up with solutions.

Corbally and Gordon spoke in favor of the plan.

Gordon said negotiations between boardwalk businesses and governing body members were cordial, but a failure.

"We had way too many lawyers in the room," he said, emphatically. "We had five. That was about four and a half too many and I include our lawyers in that. I believe lawyers only muddy the waters."

"The disappointing thing that came out of our last meeting was we asked the boardwalk to come up with a solid plan. Mr. Storinos and Mr. Bassinders, I believe your lawyers failed you in that regard," Gordon said to several members of the Storino family who were in the room, along with Scott Bassinder, Martell's owner.

"Now what do we do? Now the burden is on us to make a decision that is going to affect a lot of people. I haven't given up on negotiations, but I refuse to continue to kick this can down the road. The days are over when our residents continue to subsidize the extra police services" that are needed because of boardwalk bar patrons, Gordon said.

"I do not scoff at the fact that $800,000 is a generous offer, but I don't like that it's a finite plan. I heard Mr. Ramos' question and that has been my concern," he said.

A bit earlier in the meeting, resident Mike Ramos asked, "It sounds like a good offer, but what happens after five years?"

Gordon said police statistics illustrate how the town's most problem-plagued time period is from midnight to 3 a.m.

More than 42 percent of all citations written in the town over the entire year are written between midnight and 3 a.m., including in the summer, Gordon said.

He said he hopes the boardwalk businesses come up with a solid plan and then the issue can be re-visited.

Councilmember Tim Lurie said the debate about earlier bar closings that has stretched out over the past several months has divided and hurt the town. He said the local tourism industry brings in $3.2 million and that the town needs to work with the boardwalk businesses.

"I think we all need to work together, and I think this ordinance is a bad idea," Lurie said.

Mayer said he favored tabling ordinances and instead finalizing the agreement for the boardwalk businesses to pay $160,000 per year for a total of $800,000 for five years.

Reid noted that there were TV news crews around the meeting room. He said the bad publicity is already hurting the town.

Reid said that because the town will have more special police officers this summer, the problems can be addressed through additional enforcement.

"We have enough cops to put one on every corner in District 4," which is an assertion that Tooker has challenged, saying there will not be nearly enough officers to put a cop on every corner.

On Tuesday night, Tooker said, "We don't have a serious proposal with mechanisms in place to make it happen in perpetuity, beyond five years. If we pass this, we can always rescind it. Mr. Reid talks about the damage that has been done. What about the damage that has already been done because of the change in our clientele, the Jersey Shore crowd?"

Tooker said she hopes in the future the boardwalk bars can come up with a better plan, with mechanisms in place for payments to be made, and then the town can consider possibly rescinding the earlier closing.

Barrella, just before voting, said it seemed that a lot of the people speaking against the earlier bar closings, saying the tourism industry will be hurt, are actually talking about the alcohol industry, not the tourism industry.

He said bars need to do a better job serving alcohol responsibly.

"I think they really want to do that, I hope they want to do that," Barrella said.

Barrella said he did not like the fact that the boardwalk businesses filed a lawsuit against the new parking plan as they were entering into discussions with him, Mayer and Gordon. He said he was voting yes, but still hoped negotiations could resume to work out an alternative solution.

After the vote, Marilou Halvorsen said, "What's the point of negotiating now? They just voted to close the bars early."

She said the two sides "were so close" to reaching an agreement, noting that none of the councilmembers or the mayor had said the amount of $800,000 offered was too low.

When asked about assertions by some on council that the written offer did not include an explanation about any mechanisms for the money to be paid or other details, Halvorsen said, "It's up to the town to work out the mechanisms. We said we were making these payments for quality of life issues. Working out the details was up to them."

She said it would be up to the Storinos whether to pay fees to stay open until 2 a.m. or to consider other action.

Bassinder and Ron Gasiorowski, an attorney for Jenkinson's and Martell's, declined comment after the vote.

Cathy Kelly May 24, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Mr.Happy, I was taking a break from posting but I have to say many people are guessing who you are, and many,many more just want to shake your hand,haha...I have been asked if I know you and if I can put people in touch with you,unfortunately I don't and I can't, but I have to tell you that you have developed a fan club,haha....through conversations and emails,I have to tell you that people agree with you and are happy that you are posting,haha
Spelling Police May 24, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Cathy Kelly----Do you actually believe for a New York minute---that people are really taking you seriously? I mean---C'mon Man---you're like a bubble guppie swimming in the shark tank at Jenkinson's Aquarium---and everyone in town is laughing at your foolishness. YOU have falsely elevated yourself to an imagined position of misperceived power----otherwise known as the Peter Principle. You're really nothing more than the Cruise Director of the chipped iceberg---sailing to the Land of Misfit Toys. YOU have nothing better to do with your life----than bang away on your computer all hours of the day and night----guessing the identities of people who F--- with you and exploit your stupidity? Do you not even realize that you are the laughingstock of The Beach,,,haha,,,Just sayin'?
Mr. Happy May 24, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Cathy Kelly-thanks for the kind words of support. I once said that I was the voice of the people, but since everyone has their own voice, a better way to put it might be to say that I am a reflection of the popular sentiment of a town that has desperately needed change and that change may now be within grasp. The people to thank are the elected officials that are working to create that change for the betterment of all. I know many people read things posted here, but choose not to comment because they will be attacked by the haters. The post by "Spelling Police" at 11:13 is a perfect example of this. And as I have said many times already, the more they write the worse their cause looks. I mean does that BW supporter really think he has added any new members to HIS fan club? Tell all my fans not to fear, Mr. Happy is here!
Cathy Kelly May 24, 2012 at 04:27 AM
wow,spelling,you really hurt my feelings,,, i guess i should feel happy about being called the laughingstock because you guys have called me alot worse so actually its a step up haha...and by the way,the residents that email me and call me(using their real names feel a little differently) but thanks for the compliment haha...I am moving up in this world haha
Bob Basher May 27, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Sure sounds like legalized extortion....where I come from the mob usually decides how much you have to pay for protection....but I guess since it's the council...it's all OK. Just like the government to step in and make it harder for businesses to exist. No wonder in New Jersey if you get $10 an hour the employers think your robbing them....they got to give it...from both ends.


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