LIVINGSTON, NJ – Livingston’s Township Council held a final hearing on whether or not to adopt an ordinance that will allow the sale of alcoholic beverages (beer and wine) during the July 4 festivities at the Oval.
The council faced an overwhelming majority of attendees at the meeting who were opposed to holding a so-called “beer garden” at the event. After hearing the concerns of many residents, the council still passed the amendment with a 4-1 vote, which will allow the “one-time, experimental” sale of beer and wine in the Oval at this year’s July 4 celebration.
The first resident to rise and speak against holding a beer garden was Debbie Lindner. Lindner was concerned over the insurance liabilities and moral issues. “If something goes wrong, everyone will be sued, no matter what kind of insurance is held,” Lindner said. “The July 4th celebration is all about family … and it used to be a safe haven (for those coming from alcoholic abusive families).”
Mark Fusari also rose to protest the admission of alcohol at the event. “It only takes one episode, one person to make things go wrong,” Fusari said. “It’s a bad example for our children.”
To quell the concerns of residents, the council invited the July 4th Committee; Scott Harrison, the master vender; and Capt. Gary Marshuetz to clarify what exactly would be held at the event and the safety procedures involved.
Harrison explained how he has coordinated such events for many New Jersey towns, and how demographics are always taken into account. “I don’t believe Livingston will be a particularly rowdy crowd,” he said. “After years of holding such events, we have never had one incident.”
The beer garden will be a completely “double fenced-off area,” according to Harrison. Alcoholic beverages will be restricted to one area, and the double fences will be in place to insure no one can hand others beverages from outside the area.
Marshuetz assured the council and residents that he is overseeing the entire scene and will not let anything get out of hand. “Problems will be handled immediately and dissolved, we’ll have zero tolerance,” he said.
According to Marshuetz, there will be only one entrance and exit for the beer garden with I.D. checks and wrist bands. “No one will be allowed to leave (the beer garden) with an alcoholic beverage,” he said. The sale of alcoholic beverages will be only allowed at an allotted time, for only a few hours, according to Marshuetz.
Councilman Rudy Fernandez, who voted yes, commented that although initially he was opposed to holding a beer garden, “It (the sale of beer and wine) is being used to compliment the food that is there, and it will not be a stand-alone bar.”
“Alcohol is at a ballpark with your kids, or even at the dinner table,” Councilman Al Anthony said. “The sale of alcohol will be in a very controlled area,” added Anthony, who voted yes as well.
“None of us wish there to be a problem; we run every event with or without alcohol for the benefit of the residents,” said Councilman Michael Silverman. “I’m looking forward to trying something new, and it will be monitored carefully,” he said before voting yes.
Councilwoman Deborah Shapiro was the sole vote of no, stating “for the record, we have sold alcoholic beverages before as a township at an event … (however) the majority of people I spoke to were opposed.”
Mayor Michael Rieber voted yes and stated, “I believe in the people of Livingston … I’ve spoken to other communities that have held beer gardens and I have heard nothing but success.”