Tonight will have the governing body decide on whether to allow bars and liquor stores to sell alcohol before noon on Sundays.
Currently, in Roselle Park, alcohol is prohibited from being sold or served before between the hours of 2 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Sundays. While some municipalities prohibit the sale of hard liquor but allow such beer and wine, the borough’s laws did not allow the selling of any liquor before noon.
The reason given for the change by Mayor Carl Hokanson was due to requests from local bars that wanted to air NFL football games that are played in England. The next game of note is the New York Giants vs. the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, October 23rd. Although not mentioned during the discussion by Mayor Hokanson, multiple sources have stated that at least one liquor store owner approached the mayor to ask for the change in the law. Fifth Ward Councilman Thomas ‘Thos’ Shipley asked how many taverns approached Mayor Hokanson. He was notified that three such businesses approached the mayor.
During the discussion among councilmembers, Councilwoman-At-Large Charlene Storey supported the proposal, stating it would benefit the borough and support businesses. She commented, “I don’t see any problem. I don’t’ think it’s really up to us to make rules for when… for prohibition as it were. And if this can expand our taverns into offering brunches, brunch is a very popular meal today. If you could go out at, say, maybe it’s not always at nine but, say, 10 o’clock, I assume for these football games they’ll be serving food also. I think that’s completely up to the individuals. Where we would come in would be where somebody were driving drunk but that’s true for any case for any time of day. I think that anything that will help out our businesses, I think that’s great. And frankly, I think it would be an addition to the town if we did have some places that started to look at brunches.”
Councilman Shipley expressed concerns over the proposed change in the law and remarked, “I bring this up because I just think it’s important to figure out – to understand – what ramifications there are – if any – before we change a law. To understand its purpose [and] why it was put there in the first place. Because this seems a little just off the wall, for it to serve alcohol for three hours.”
The councilman added that if this allowed businesses to open early on Sundays this would help those establishments out, that would be one thing but he was told that businesses were not prevented from opening earlier, simply from serving alcohol before noon.
Councilwoman Storey stated, “A lot of people can be at 10 o’clock in a restaurant somewhere having a mimosa and I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with that.”
First Ward Councilman Eugene Meola added to the conversation by saying, “I would like businesses to prosper and if they ask for this, it’s up to us to accommodate them.”
Mayor Hokanson stated that the reason the issue was not placed on for a workshop discussion – as is the new protocol with the new agenda of having matters discussed before proposed as a resolution or ordinance – was due to the time constraint of the game being played on October 23rd. Discussing the matter then waiting to put it on as an ordinance for the following meeting would have the new law approved in November, after the game is to be played.
Councilman Meola also stated that this change will affect future football games that will be played early in the morning on Sundays.
“I get that,” responded Councilman Shipley, “That’s all nice but my points is it’s not about the games, it’s not about trying to stop business. What I’m talking about is we’re changing a law and before you do that you need to know why and what for and what it was for in the first place and what ramifications are going to happen because of it.”
Mayor Hokanson called up Police Chief Paul Morrison, who was in the audience, to address the Fifth Ward Councilman’s concerns.
Borough Attorney Richard Huxford explained, “I guess council would like to know if you see any problem with having the taverns open up three hours earlier, from your perspective as a Chief of Police?”
Chief Morrison responded, “I think Councilwoman Storey had alluded to it earlier that there’s really not much of a difference if a tavern opens at 12 noon and remains open till 2 a.m. The taverns are still bound by ABC (Alcohol Bureau Control) laws to not over-serve and not allow anybody who’s intoxicated to drive a vehicle. The other part of it is the police, that’s what we do. Certainly, if you decide to do something like this, we would certainly monitor the situation a little closer than what we normally do during regular hours. That would be my position.”
The ordinance is scheduled to have its second reading tonight at the October 20th Mayor & Council meeting that will start at 7 p.m. in Borough Hall. The public hearing for the ordinance is also set for tonight before a vote is taken. Borough Hall is located at 110 East Westfield Avenue.
A copy of the ordinance is included below: