The City Council introduced an ordinance Wednesday to increase the operating hours of eateries with liquor licenses in the Downtown Restaurant Overlay Zone, which covers Newark Avenue and Grove Street.
The council will create a task force to further study the pros and cons of the change before they decide to approve it at the next meeting.
The ordinance would amend the current one, passed in 1999, which confines restaurants in the zone to serving alcohol from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday.
Restaurants located elsewhere throughout the city can serve alcohol from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Monday to Thursday, 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays.
Downtown businesses such as L.I.T.M., a bar on Newark Avenue that serves food but does not operate a full-scale restaurant, want the hours extended since the early closing hurts their profits.
The new ordinance has the backing of Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop, who sees the change as positive for attracting new businesses in the Downtown area. That area was supposed to become a vibrant “Restaurant Row” but has fallen short because of the limited hours.
Over 50 young supporters of the ordinance change came out, holding up signs saying “Equal Hours for Newark Avenue.” But there was opposition from many older residents living near Newark Avenue, who cautioned the council to consider the change carefully since the later hours could create noise problems and disrupt the residents’ quality of life.Young and old clash
L.I.T.M owner Jelynne Jardiniano wants to continue running her business, which has become a haven for local artists. Her fear is that the shorter hours would prompt customers to go to Manhattan for a drink after midnight.
Echoing Jardiniano were many L.I.T.M customers who want the hours extended to continue going to their favorite bar without having to worry about an early closing.
But homeowners such as Charles Kessler, who resides one block away from L.I.T.M., feared that the change in the hours would attract people from out of town and disrupt the neighbors’ peace.
Kessler also did not appreciate that supporters of the change were not discussing this issue with the residents.
Fulop accused Kessler of being unreceptive to the change, and the two sparred verbally.
Jeffrey Elkind, a Hamilton Park resident, pointed out that several neighborhood groups voted against the ordinance change, and he felt that more discussion on the matter was needed.
The matter must come up again at a future council meeting to be approved.