The fallout from last December’s SantaCon is starting to take shape, as the Mayor of Hoboken announced the formation of a new Task Force on Public Safety to address violence and quality of life issues resulting from intoxicated bar patrons.
“We can no longer ignore the fact that a small number of establishments are creating a big problem for everyone else in the form of violence, property damage, and financial cost,” said Mayor Ravinder S. Bhalla. “When a person comes from out of town and spits in the face of our officers, as has happened numerous times, that is unacceptable. When an officer is assaulted by an inebriated patron and receives a concussion, as happened to Officer Lombardi on Christmas Eve, I will not allow the status quo to continue.”
According to the City, there were 277 liquor license violations, a.k.a. “tavern sheets,” in 2017. Of 133 liquor license holders, more than half received zero tavern sheets in 2017 and more than ¾ received two or fewer tavern sheets. Of the 277 violations, half were issued to just 11 Hoboken establishments (8% of the city’s bars).
The task force includes Police Chief Ferrante, Provisional Fire Chief Crimmins, Police Capt. Pasculli, Police Sgt. Kucz, Police Sgt. Montanez, Health Officer Frank Sasso, Battalion Fire Chief Buoncuore, Fire Captain DiVincent, Business Administrator Marks, Corporation Counsel Aloia, and Environmental Services Director Pellegrini.
“The Mayor’s creation of this task force is not about hurting the bar and restaurant industry in town,” said Police Chief Ken Ferrante. “This task force is going to take a deep look into incidents, events, and problem bars that are contributing to a decay of our city’s quality of life, causing injuries to our residents, visitors, and police officers, and hurting most of the businesses in town, including a majority of our bars and restaurants. The disruption that SantaCon brought to this great city, its residents, and business owners the week before Christmas and during Hanukkah, just so 10 to 15 percent of our bars can profit, is unacceptable!”
In addition to the task force, a set of ordinances (UPDATE: see below) will go before City Council that will impact Hoboken’s vibrant hospitality industry. Many of the “new” rules underscore policies that are already in effect. However, changes include a requirement more staff and training for employees—presumably at cost to the bar owner. There is no word on whether the significant price for a Hoboken liquor license or the recurring fees for bar workers to secure a “bar card” ID will cover any of the new regulations.
Furthermore, the ordinances also set limits about the number of people who can be waiting in line outside the establishments (no more than 10), crowding within the establishments and on-premise marketing and point-of-sale advertising in the establishments.
Hoboken’s hospitality industry, which helped considerably in sparking the City’s real estate renaissance, has been forced to deal with a lot of changes over the past few years. Demographic shifts have altered the landscape here in town, while ongoing infrastructure issues have negatively impacted the retail scene in general.
Given the volatile nature of the bar/restaurant business, some bar owners like Dan DeKemper of Cork City are less than thrilled with the heavy-handed and selective nature of the rules.
“If we should ever get so crowded that a line is necessary, we will commit to politely asking the 11th person in line to promptly leave our city—probably employing one of our crowd management techniques that we are now required to demonstrate,” he said sarcastically, in a written statement. “Also, the next time you are thwarted on Washington street by the Carlos Bakery Line snapping photos for a terrible reality show, please ask them to leave our fine city. It is your duty as a Hoboken Citizen.”
The new regulations are scheduled to be presented at Wednesday’s City Council Meeting. DeKemper and other bar owners plan on being in attendance.
***UPDATE: The ordinance has reportedly been removed from the agenda for the January 17 meeting, as it couldn’t secure adequate sponsorship as presented. Stay tuned for an amended version.***