A new ordinance introduced in the city council on Tuesday evening seeks to forbid group gatherings from forming outside business establishments.
The ordinance originating out of the council’s public safety committee seeks to prevent groups from sprouting outside liquor stores, bars, and other businesses.
“As we all know the State of New Jersey did away with loitering, and we still have an issue with many of our establishments, where mainly young men are hanging out in front of businesses, bodegas, liquor stores,” said Kenneth McDaniel, councilman at-large. “It’s preventing some people from even patronizing these locations.”
Anthony Davis, 1st Ward councilman, cited an example on East Main Street, where large hangouts are common. Davis said sometimes the groups scare residents and prevent them from venturing outside their doorsteps.
“I think it’s good. I don’t think it should just be for businesses,” said Davis. “I get phone calls every other week from residents saying not only are they out there in front of liquor stores, they’re out there doing this, they’re out there shooting,” said Davis about the groups that scare residents and reduce business patronage.
Davis wants this rule applied not only to groups that form outside businesses but also to groups that form in front of residential dwellings. “I agree with you councilman Davis, I have the same issues with Market Street and Park Ave. I rather start with this, see how it goes because we might end up in court over this,” added Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman.
Language in the ordinance reads, the city would do well in “prohibiting activity which obstructs, interferes, or otherwise disrupts, by means of force, violence, physical interference or obstacle, the lawful activities of any commercial or retail establishment.”
Council members citied incidents where crowds blocked the entrance of businesses preventing customers from entering to make purchases.
A violator can be fined as much as $2,000, receive an imprisonment sentence of no more than 90-days, or complete a period of community service under 90-days, according to the ordinance.
Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, asked whether the ordinance is amendable, indicating that once commercial application of the new rule is viewed as effective in discouraging the formation of groups outside shops, members of the council will be able to extend it to cover residential properties as well.