An ordinance which will force businesses in rough neighborhoods to close at midnight received early approval from the city council. The local law targets 15 neighborhoods designated as hotspots by police, where commercial businesses may not operate between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., according to the ordinance.
“It’s not necessarily a curfew, but inking what spots are hot and businesses in that area are going to have to adhere to the commercial hours,” said Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large. Davila stated that characterizing the ordinance as a business curfew does it injustice, for it regulates business hours in crime infested neighborhoods.
The ordinance inks, 10th and 17th Avenues; East 18th Street and Broadway; Governor and Temple Streets; Rosa Parks Boulevard and Park Avenue; Straight and Market Streets; West Broadway and Carroll Street; North Main Street and two sections of Main Street as hotspot locations.
Some members of the governing body wanted the entire city under a business curfew. “I would much rather have it city wide,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large.
“I agree, it should be the whole city, not just certain areas,” added Anthony Davis, 1st Ward councilman.
“This ordinance targets certain eateries in certain areas,” said Morris. “Now, if you can’t go to this particular area, but there’s another restaurant in another area that’s not impacted by the ordinance, you’ll just go there to buy the food.”
Morris said the same group of trouble makers, mainly out-of-towners, who descend on Rosa Parks Boulevard will simply move to Chamberlain Avenue. “The problem that was on Rosa Parks may start cross pollinating on Chamberlain Avenue,” said Morris.
“Crime just moves to another location, if you do a curfew of one area,” said Mendez.
Although the ordinance subtly targets barbershops and chicken joints in crime-ridden streets, there are exceptions: rooming and boarding companies, industrial and wholesale producers, healthcare facilities, athletic fields and parks, schools and houses of worship, maintenance and administrative activities are exempt. A business that has closed for the day can continue stacking products, taking inventories, cleaning floor, and taking care of administrative paperwork, according to the ordinance.
Liquor stores are also exempt from the curfew. City officials are working on a separate ordinance to regulate the hours of operations for liquor stores.
Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman, came out against a possible city wide business curfew. “We’re a city, we’re not the suburbs, to shut a city down is killing what we have,” said Tavarez. The council president citied major cities that have a section of the city open 24 hours a day with strong police presence.
“I wish we had a section of Paterson open 24 hours,” said Tavarez. Tavarez isn’t alone, the city’s new master plan calls for the downtown area to be turned into a nightlife destination. The plan recommends the city provide incentives to late-night businesses, restaurants and bars, to relocate to the downtown area and remain open late into the night. The plan further suggests beefed up police presence in the area to create the perception downtown is a safe area for entertainment.
Tavarez appeared to suggest that businesses wishing to remain open can do so in that designated area, rather than scattered throughout the city, creating quality of life issues.
Michael Jackson, owner of Jacksonville Restaurant on Grand Street, spoke against the business curfew on Tuesday evening. “I’d urge the administration to move in caution. I would hate to see potential lawsuits raised against the city because of some businesses being targeted,” said Jackson.
Jackson said it’s unfair to target a business because it happens to be located in a bad neighborhood. “If I was being targeted for the circumstance around it [the business], I’d feel slighted. I would feel I’m being unfairly targeted because of what’s going on in the area,” said Jackson.
The entire council voted in favor of the ordinance. “It’s been proven to work elsewhere,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, citing Jersey City as an example. Sayegh, voting in favor, said it’s one of the many tools the council has put in the hands of law enforcement officials, citing the recent anti-loitering ordinance.
Individuals and businesses found in violation of the ordinance can face up to $2,000 fine or 90-day imprisonment, according to the ordinance.
The ordinance is set for final adoption following a public hearing later this month.