During a tense meeting on Tuesday evening, the city council adopted an ordinance to compel businesses in 15 designated hotspot locations to close at midnight. The ordinance forbids most commercial establishments from operating between the hours of 12 and 5 a.m.
“All these chicken stores are stained with blood in our city,” said Sylvia Farrar, a city resident in support of the ordinance. “Paterson should be closed at 10, 11 like our surrounding neighbors.”
Farrar was booed by business owners in the audience inside a crammed council chamber. “You move out!” yelled a liquor store owner from the audience. Business owners decried the ordinance will adversely impact their shops and livelihood.
“We have children to support. We have to support our families,” said Juan Kivelier, a city business owner. Kivelier said businesses are already saddled with high taxes, and now the city is trying to squeeze them with shorter hours.
“The last two people that were killed were killed in middle of the day,” said Kivelier, suggesting the effort to regulate commerce to reduce violent crime in the city is a futile attempt. Kivelier, like other business owners, said the crime problem is something the police should address. Businesses should not be punished when gang members and hoodlums loiter outside their establishments.
Liquor stores, chicken joints, and every other commercial establishment save drive-through-only services without indoor service, houses of worship, industrial factories, and health facilities. The ordinance does allow businesses to close their doors at midnight to stock shelves, take inventories, clean floor, and handle other miscellaneous post-business-hour activities.
“Reducing the hours of operation is cutting the hours of employment for our employees,” said another business owner Arsenio Marte. Business owners have said they will have to fire staff members to remain in business, for some business the hour reduction will result in the elimination of night shift workers.
“We’ll have to reduce one-third of our employees,” said Stacy Force, co-owner of Checkers Restaurant on Park Avenue. Force’s restaurant sits on a hotspot location. She said her business currently employs 25 workers, mostly city residents.
Force said “significant” amount of business will be lost for her establishment as a result of this ordinance. A reduction in the hours of operation will result in a reduction in workers needed to man the night shift, she said.
Despite cutting five hours for late night businesses in the designated areas, council members said they are for improving quality of life and not against business. “We’re not against business,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman. “If the quality of life improves, it’s better for the businesses too.”
“When I think about life or losing a job. I prefer losing a job,” said Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large. “Life is more important than a job.”
“We’re losing too many people. I’m tired of shots fired here and there”, said Anthony Davis, 1st Ward councilman. “We have to go with the crowd that’s asking us to do something.”
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, called the ordinance, the city’s “first step in the right direction.”
William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, corrected the speakers, who kept mentioning businesses should close at 10 p.m., when in fact the ordinance calls for a less stringent requirement: close shop at midnight. “We have a responsibility to try to abate the situation that we’re in,” said McKoy.
Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman, the sole vote against the business curfew, reiterated his position that a city like Paterson cannot conform to its puny neighbors by forcing businesses to close early. Tavarez said most cities make money during the night by having thriving nightlife venues.
Tavarez expressed uncertainty over the enforcement of the ordinance. The council president mentioned an anti-loitering ordinance that was passed few months ago, yet it has gone unenforced.
If the current laws on the books are unenforced, the city cannot better itself passing new ordinances, alluded Tavarez.
“I think this is going to have a more negative impact on our business owners and our economy than it’s going to have on the violence that’s in the city,” said Tavarez.
The council also passed another ordinance bypassing a 20-day waiting period before the ordinance becomes an enforceable law. The ordinance, which regulates business hours in the below listed hotspots, comes into effect immediately.
- 10th Avenue from East 16th Street to East 28th Street
- 17th Avenue from Rosa Parks Boulevard to East 32nd Street
- Broadway from Straight Street to Madison Avenue
- East 18th Street from 8th Avenue to Broadway
- Governor Street from Auburn Street to Carroll Street
- Temple Street from North 6th Street to North 7th Street
- Main Street from Robert Street to Goshen Street
- Main Street from Montclair Avenue to Gould Avenue
- Rosa Parks Boulevard from Broadway to Lyon Street
- Park Avenue from Straight Street to East 23rd Street
- North Main Street from Haledon Avenue to Clinton Street
- Straight Street from Market to Van Houten Street
- Market Street from Straight Street to Madison Avenue
- West Broadway from Presidential Boulevard to Cliff Street
- Carroll Street from 16th Avenue to Park Avenue