Liquor Licenses Renewed, Subcommittee to be Formed
Councilwoman seeks "fair, equitable and legal" solutions for everyone regarding bars, downtown business.
Another year for liquor license renewals has come and gone, with Town Council approving them across the board.
But, not before making plans to form a subcommittee to make sure they're being good neighbors, to other businesses and to the burgeoning downtown resident population.
Liquor licenses, not only for bars but for any business legally selling alcoholic beverages, go up for renewal at the end of every June. Most passed through at Tuesday's council meeting without much comment–from both the council and residents. But, six licenses, in the cluster of bars downtown near the 40 Park luxury condo development, were separated out because several of its residents had filed letters of complaint. By law, an Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (which also is the Town Council) hearing must then be conducted before a vote can be conducted.
Roseann Loia, a longtime Morristown resident and the very first person to buy a condo at 40 Park two years ago, told the council she is unable to open her windows past 9 a.m. everyday due to the smoke, grease and food smells wafting up through ventilation systems from The Office, which she said are only 12 feet from her residence.
Last year, Loia posted a video on YouTube explaining her ongoing plight in greater detail. "No one looked to the 12 feet beyond," she said.
"It was a dream of mine [to purchase at 40 Park]. I never imagined I would be able to do that," Loia said. "I had no idea this situation would exist. It's unfortunate that it has come to this."
Loia noted she has been told The Office owners, Villa Enterprises, have said they plan to close the business in July for renovations, which may address the issue. However, she had previously been told that renovation was slated to begin earlier this year.
Marie Rozan, also of 40 Park, has taken issue specifically with Iron Bar, the newest of the bars, because of a trash receptable the business has in the alleyway between the business and the DeHart Street garage. She said other restaurants–those within 40 Park–are utilizing "prime retail space," which keeps it out of public view.
"It's not some alley for them to put their trash," she said. "I don't think it's fair."
The attorneys for The Office and Iron Bar–part of the six that also included Sona Thirteen, Tashmoo, The Dark Horse Lounge and Roots/Urban Table–noted, however, none of the complaints presented at the meeting had any bearing on whether or not the businesses should have their liquor licenses renewed.
Christine Conti-Collins, one of the most vocal 40 Park residents regarding the issue of bars in that area–previously citing issues including traffic and human waste–said she actually had "no real issues with the bars and their licenses, if they're willing to work with us.
"I want the problems addressed, which are health and safety related," she said. "Step up to the plate on the issues you control, for the welfare of your residents."
Those controllable issues, Council Vice President Rebecca Feldman said, should be addressed through a new subcommittee, which would look at the mitigating impacts of the bars and would include input from the town, businesses and–added Conti-Collins–the residents.
"They could teach you something," Conti-Collins said.
Mayor Tim Dougherty, during the Town Council portion of the meeting, also noted he planned to hire four additional officers–from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights–to patrol the busiest areas of downtown, for July and August. He said he hoped an agreement could be worked out following that to have more officers in that part of town during that part of the week on a regular basis. The money, an estimated $7,000 a month, would come from the regular police budget, he said.
Conti-Collins said the issues have been there for a long time, but it finally took resident complaints getting out into the open for action to be taken.
"We were being ignored. We don't want to be dismissed, and we certainly don't want to be ignored," she said. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Well, we gotcha."
That said, Conti-Collins said she felt things were starting to work.
"Thank you for hearing us," she said. "I do trust we'll work [this] out."