Point Pleasant Beach Bars to Stop Serving Alcohol By Midnight [AUDIO/POLL]
When you're getting drinks at the Boardwalk in Point Pleasant, you'll have to call it quits by midnight according to an ordinance passed by the Borough Council. In a tight 3 to 4 vote Tuesday night, that was ultimately decided by a tie breaking vote from Mayor Vincent Barrella, bars and restaurants will be required to stop serving alcohol at midnight starting July 1st.
The vote came after a contentious council meeting where residents from the affected 4 district spoke out passionately against many business owners and employees who see this as a devastating blow to their business.
Mayor Barrella says the segment of the population that comes to Point Pleasant to drink excessively gets unfairly lumped into the rest of the borough's tourism offerings. He believes the ordinance will help curb some of the behavior that is causing the problems. "If you say, don't line up six jello shots you're somehow hurting tourism and games of chance and the people who are going to come to the beach."
Though proponents of keeping the 2 a.m. limit for drinking say it brings revenue for municipality, Barrella notes the municipal parking makes only $3,000 between 12 a.m. to 6 a.m., while $12,000 is made from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The issue of restricting the hours that patrons can be served came after complaints last year of drunken rowdy behavior increased, and the issue of dedicating more police force to the area was presented.
Point Pleasant Council members met with representatives from businesses along the Boardwalk to try and reach a resolution that would prevent a restriction from needing to be passed. An offer from the Boardwalk was made which would give the borough $160,000 dollars every year for five years ($800,000 total), however members of the board felt that not only was the money not enough but didn't provide any kind of solution to the problem nor address the issue past the five year mark.
Additionally Barrella feels a lump sum of cash given by the Boardwalk doesn't do anything to alleviate what he feels is the problem of drunken and disorderly behavior, and furthermore absolves boardwalk bars and restaurants from doing anything.
"If you just take the money, the argument is going to be without structural changes, the argument is going to be 'well you took the money, it's your problem', and it's not our problem. It's our problem because they're not treating it as their problem," said Barrella.
The ordinance preventing the sale of alcohol past midnight (2012-15) was accompanied by another ordinance which would have allowed the very same bars and restaurants to have an optional fee to allow them to operate until 2 am (2012-16).
The second ordinance would have charged businesses 60 dollars per person of max capacity which would give them permission to serve alcohol to the 2 am time like before. The money from the sale of these would be then used to fund special police officers who would be responsible for patrolling the area addressing quality of life issues.
That piece of legislation stalled however, postponed until the next council meeting over issues of the ordinances legality. There was concern from the Department of Consumer Affairs acting director Richard Constable that charging business owners 60 dollars a head goes beyond what can be charged for a liquor license. The ordinance was brought to the attention of Governor Chris Christie during a town hall and he was asked to bring it to the DCA. Mayor Barrella says he personally brought the issue to the agency.
Though Barrella contends the ordinance is legal, in a letter first published on Point Pleasant Patch, Constable states "The borough appears to be undertaking an unlawful effort to institute a fee that it has no power to institute."
Constable believes the state is interfering with a municipality matter. "The state has meddled here, the state made a conscious decision to do something unprecedented which is get involved."
Recently Point Pleasant instituted a ban on parking within the Fourth District by the boardwalk from 12 am to 6 am. That law would also take effect in July, however it is under litigation from several Boardwalk bars.
Barrella says that regardless of what happens with ordinance 2012-16, the Ordinance 2012-15 is currently law, and is autonomous with or without the other legislation.