After the city council passed an ordinance requiring liquor businesses to undergo annual training, about a dozen bar and liquor store owners protested the requirement on Wednesday night.
“It caught us all by surprise,” said Sammy Torres, owner of Economy Liquors and Midtown Liquors. “It’s redundant.”
Torres said liquor license holders are provided a manual from the New Jersey Alcoholic Beverage Control Division. That manual provides a variety of examples of what license holders should not be doing.
The city wants liquor license holders to attend a free annual class at the Passaic County Community College to learn about the various liquor regulations. The goal equip owners, managers, and other key members of a liquor business to reduce the large number of violations businesses have been committing.
“I ran across 5 or 6 that had no clue how to run a liquor store,” said Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman. “They were doing all kinds of crazy stuff.”
“We believe it’s good practice,” said Domenick Stampone, law director, who said other cities have similar size, like Passaic City, have similar ordinances.
Council members Alex Mendez and Luis Velez said the businesses should have been better notified.
Stampone pointed out the ordinance went through two readings and was advertised on the city’s official newspaper. A public hearing was held prior to final passage at the last regular meeting of the council in June.
Velez was not on the council when the ordinance was passed. Mendez did not raise any objections to the ordinance when his colleagues passed it on Tuesday, June 28th, 2016. In fact, Mendez voted in favor of the ordinance.
Velez recognized the ordinance has the potential to improve quality of life in crime-ridden neighborhoods. He noted many businesses will be penalized using the ordinance.
Liquor license holders, who fail to undergo the training, will not be allowed to renew their licenses. License owners may send representatives from their business, a partner, manager, or someone who is a high ranking employee at the business, said officials.
Torres, who is the brother of mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, said it harms small business. He said the businesses have to pay while the employees are receiving training.
“We have a problem, but it’s not the licensees. It’s the after hour clubs,” added Terry Duffy, owner of Duffy’s Tavern.
Liquor business owners said the council will not be effective due to the high employee turnover at liquor stores and bars.
“It’s not going to work,” said Torres. “This is a waste of time.”
“It’s just another layer of government bureaucracy on small businesses,” said Duffy, who also serves on the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Duffy and Torres said the city should go after repeat offenders instead of forcing all license holders to take classes.
The new owners are committing most of the violations, according to Cotton. Duffy and Torres said force businesses to take the classes when a license is being transferred between persons.
Duffy said he has been operating his business on River Street for 42 years without any problems. Torres, who represents the Paterson Bar and Liquor Store Association, has been running his liquor businesses for 28 years.
Torres said the association represents 75 liquor businesses in the city.