The administration of mayor Jose “Joey” Torres is proposing a local law to force all bars and liquor stores to close at 2 a.m. Officials want to restrict the hours of operation for the city’s 154 liquor establishments that fall outside the designated hotspots in a continued effort to curb violence.
“Some of the surrounding municipalities such as Passaic and Haledon close at 2 a.m.” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, briefly discussing the ordinance on Wednesday evening. The city’s bars and liquor stores are currently required to close at 3 a.m. Sayegh said the administration is likely attempting to bar trouble makers from neighboring towns from coming to the city for an additional hour of revelry.
“It’s my commitment to address quality of life issues as they relate to the sale, consumption and distribution of alcoholic beverages after hours,” said Torres in a written statement on Thursday. “Many of our neighboring towns such as Clifton and Woodland Park already have Ordinances that speak to this.”
“I think they want to stem the flow,” said Sayegh.
Other council members didn’t buy the explanation. “Nobody gets out of a bar at 2 a.m. and runs to Paterson for a half-hour,” asserted Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman.
Tavarez said bargoers come to the city for its after-hours which rumbles through the night until 6 a.m. or later. “The only reason you’d come to Paterson at 2 a.m. is for the after-hours which is already illegal,” stated Tavarez. “What are we going to do about the after-hours?”
The council president said the city ought to address the after-hours spots that are operating illegally otherwise this ordinance will result in exacerbating the issue. “This is the same thing as Prohibition,” said Tavarez.
He said early closing will simply open up an illegal option. “If we close earlier, the after-hours will open earlier,” concurred Anthony Davis, 1st Ward councilman.
The ordinance will not impact alcohol serving businesses already restricted to close at 12 a.m. in hotspot locations. Out of the 197 alcoholic beverage licenses, 12 are pocket licenses (not being utilized at any locations), 31 operate in hotspot locations, and 154 are scattered throughout the city.
“I see the fact that we’re open to three o’clock as a competitive advantage for our city,” said Tavarez. The city has little to offer outsiders besides drugs and crime, said Tavarez.
In order to build a thriving economy, the city has to figure out a way to attract outsiders, bring them to the city, and have them spend their money in local establishments, said the councilman.
“We need a nightlife,” added Anthony Davis, 1st Ward councilman.
“It’s weak. It’s all over the place,” responded Tavarez.
The councilman man said the city has potential to create a section with bars and restaurants to build a vibrant night scene. The city’s 2014 Master Plan also calls for the creation of a vibrant night scene. “The City should take steps to encourage the development of the downtown as a destination retail and entertainment area. The Downtown Commercial Business District SID should take steps to facilitate the transformation of the area into a nightlife and shopping destination,” reads an excerpt from the plan.
“If we take it away, we’re losing [a piece of our] economy,” said Davis.
“As Mayor I encourage a healthy night-life for our City, but not at the expense of the peace and tranquility of our residents and neighborhoods,” said Torres, citing 6,000 calls for service made last year between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.
Council members are set to discuss the ordinance during the next workshop meeting of the council.