The ordinance before the city council that seeks to reduce hours of operation for bars and liquor stores has been postponed until January 2015. The ordinance seeks to change closing time for 154 alcohol serving establishments from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m. – reducing operating time by one hour.
“We’re trying to keep people from outside the area [from] coming into Paterson and having a fatality in a car accident, getting involved in some sort of a dispute or an assault,” said police director Jerry Speziale during a discussion on the ordinance Tuesday evening.
Speziale said reducing the hours to 2 a.m. will halt the inflow of troublemakers from surrounding towns. Neighboring towns close their shops at around 2 a.m., according to city officials.
“You want to copy the hours of little suburban towns?” asked Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman. Speziale answered it would stem the “overflow” coming out of neighboring towns.
“Do you guys have any data that shows as bars in Haledon, Wayne, Clifton close people rush here to Paterson for half-hours of liquor?” asked Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman.
“I don’t have any empirical data that could show you someone is driving from Haledon to Paterson,” responded Speziale. The director said it is common to find residents from surrounding towns on city streets after closing hours.
“They usually come to buy heroin,” added Tavarez. Picking at a slightly different angle Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, said some bars and liquor stores disregard existing laws.
“They don’t shut down at 3 o’clock,” said Cotton. She said sometimes bars close at 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m. with patrons loitering about outside. “They’re not shutting down like they’re supposed to shut down,” said Cotton.
Tavarez said it is the after hour bars that are the problem. Tavarez said these spots are already operating illegally and passing a new ordinance to regulate them will hardly help.
“Our enforcement activity is in place,” said the director. Speziale said on Monday 18 liquor establishments were cited for various violations.
Tavarez was not the only councilman to find the lack of data unsettling, Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, wanted to follow the same data-driven process the city followed during the passage of the business curfew ordinance that severely restricted hours of operation for businesses in crime infested neighborhoods.
Sayegh also said businesses will be adversely impacted. “I have already received phone calls from very responsible tavern owners in the 6th Ward. They say that this will cripple business for them,” said Sayegh.
“This ordinance can penalize law abiding owners of certain liquor establishment,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. Morris suggested punishing alcohol establishments that break the rules. He said those caught breaking the once or twice law should be restricted to 2 a.m. closing.
“Can we just go hard on the ones that break the laws,” said Tavarez, adding those selling loose cigarettes and selling to minors should be aggressively pursued. “Hit them hard. That will spread like wildfire in the city.”
Tavarez said he sees the city’s 3 a.m. closing time as a competitive advantage. The ordinance is scheduled for discussion on January 6th, 2015.