A group of 4th Ward residents successfully blocked a liquor store from opening in their neighborhood on Wednesday evening.
Residents gave their testimony to the three-member Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board successfully persuading the board to deny East Side Liquors a license transfer to 442 10th Avenue, the former site of a notorious bar.
Karina Ortiz, who lives few doors down from location, told the board she feared leaving her home, as large crowds congregated outside the bar most nights. She said after the establishment closed in November of last year peace and quiet returned to her neighborhood.
“Now it’s been so peaceful,” said Ortiz, who came out with her family to preserve the tranquility in her neighborhood. “We can walk outside now.”
“Since that bar has been closed, we’ve been resting in peace,” said Alvin Gordon, who also lives near the location, humorously using the phrase often used to express condolence. He said he would hear gunshot just about every night while the bar was operating.
“It’s a high crime area. It’s a hotspot zone,” testified police sergeant Louis Esposito. He said from 2009 to present there have been 281 calls for service connected to the corner bar. After the bar closed, calls for service diminished greatly.
The liquor store’s attorney Theresa Richardson objected to Esposito’s testimony. However, Frank Soto, who serves as the board’s prosecutor, said state law allows law enforcement to testify in license transfers.
Richardson attempted to draw a distinction between the previous owner and her client. She argued her client, Gladys Espejo, has been operating a business in the city for 17 years without any incidents.
“She’s not being given a chance,” said Richardson.
Espejo said the liquor store would be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. “I’ve never done any bad business,” she said speaking through a translator.
“I’m not going to have people in front of the business,” said Espejo. She purchased the liquor license for $40,000, according to her attorney.
Espejo has been paying $2,000 in rent for the 10th Avenue location since December 1st, 2015 in hopes of opening the liquor store.
One of Espejo’s loyal customer, Alan Vetuschi, who patronizes her convenience store on Union and Berkshire Avenues, said the prospective liquor store owner is a community oriented individual, who goes out of her way to assist Patersonians in need.
“I feel she’ll be beneficial to the 4th Ward,” said Vetuschi, who resides in the 2nd Ward.
“Do you live in the 4th Ward?” asked Roger Grier, a 4th Ward resident.
“No,” responded Vetuschi.
“I didn’t think so,” said Grier.
Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, who marshaled neighborhood residents to oppose the liquor store, said she is not anti-business. “Any other type of business is fine, but not a liquor store,” she said.
“These types of businesses have been a nuisance to the community,” said Della Fischer, 4th Ward city council candidate. “We want that particular location to remain closed. We just don’t want it in our neighborhood anymore.”
Fischer said there’s a liquor store less than four blocks from that location negating the need for East Side Liquors owned by GNA Enterprize LLC.
Cotton said the residents’ experience with the last liquor store left them with a “bad taste” in the mouth.
Fischer and Cotton are both contesting for the same council seat, but those differences were set aside on Wednesday night.
“I saw shootings,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz said one night she saw a man who had been shot at the location.
“I’m for quality of life,” said commissioner Juan Hernandez as he voted against the license transfer.
“It’s in the public’s best interest this transfer be denied,” said commissioner Octavio Aguilar.
“RIP!” remarked Aguilar picking up on Gordon’s comment as he voted against the license transfer.
Commissioner James Briggs abstained from voting on the license transfer.
“It’s the residents who won,” said Cotton after the license transfer was denied.
“Since November you don’t have to worry about gunshots,” said Gordon, who and along with about 20 people celebrated the transfer denial. “Now we can sleep.”
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