MONTCLAIR, NJ - The Montclair Township Council held a brief conference meeting on Tuesday and spent the bulk of the meeting discussing plans for Montclair Social Club on Bloomfield Avenue to expand its liquor license to allow rental space on the second floor of the club as well as outdoor café seating.
Township Attorney Ira Karasick recused himself from the proceedings due to a conflict of interest.
The Montclair Social Club’s Jason Miller and his attorney Doug Sherman went over the plans with Mayor Robert Jackson and the five councilors in attendance (Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager was absent), and he said that, while he already had a permit or outdoor seating, he did not have the expanded license from the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Office.
“Since we are a restaurant and bar, I felt it appropriate not to open a sidewalk café until I had the ABC license,” Miller said. “It would be awkward at best for a restaurant with a liquor license not to be able to serve drinks outside.”
Miller showed the council plans for the second floor, explaining that the next phase after opening the club always involved expanding to the upstairs space. The club is the process of redoing the second floor, and most of the plans have already been given permits. The floor includes a central bar that is incorporating the original disc jockey booth from when it had been a nightclub, though Miller said that its use as a DJ booth in the future is “to be determined.”
The space is strictly meant to be rented for parties and weddings, not to be part of the main-floor restaurant, and the club will handle the catering. Miller showed the council renderings of the plans but they were not shown to the members of the public in attendance.
Deputy Mayor Rich McMahon asked how many people would use the room in a single event, and Miller said it would determine on the use – about 65 or 70 to 200 people. He noted that when it was a nightclub, up to 500 people used the space, and he has no intention of employing the space as a nightclub anyway.
“I’m not even permitted to do a nightclub if I wanted to,” Miller said, citing the restrictions on his lease.
Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville asked about the amount of parking needed, saying that if a couple of hundred people were to use the space, there should be a discussion of where people would park.
Jackson responded that the parking requirements were not really part of the council’s purview, citing the council’s focus on reviewing the liquor license application, and Miller said he would likely rent out the space on weekends and take advantage of whatever weekday happened to be booked by someone.
“That’s not really part of the event business,” he said of weekdays.
Regarding the outdoor café, Jackson was concerned about the available space for passersby on the sidewalk. Miller and Sherman said that the plan involved café space for outdoor seating extending six feet from the building frontage, leaving a six-foot width on the perimeter of the sidewalk for pedestrians. The outdoor seating itself would involve five tables for four customers each with two tables for two customers each, translating into a total seating for 24 customers.
Councilor-at-Large Robert Russo was concerned about a fifth person sitting at the end of a four-person table and the protruding into the right of way for pedestrians. Miller promised that he would not allow that and that he would keep seating within the legal limit. This was of great importance to Councilor Russo, who noted that elected officials get complaints over intrusive café seating.
No action was taken on the liquor license application on this night, and Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford said that it will be listed on a future agenda, possibly as early as the agenda for the February 18 meeting.
Miller was informed that he would receive word as to when the council would consider it.
The council also passed a resolution approving the acquisition of a new aerial ladder truck for the fire department through the Houston-Galveston Area Council Cooperative Program.
Jackson noted that Montclair would be able to replace an aging truck and help bring the fleet to five new fire vehicles by 2021. Manager Stafford said that he was “diligently moving forward” to that goal.
In public comment, William Scott of the Montclair Housing Commission, wanted the council to look at zoning and land-use regulations and look at supporting senior housing, assisted-living facilities, supportive housing, and veterans’ housing in OR-zoned areas to allow an expansion of such housing throughout the town on large lots and not just in the Third and Fourth Wards, where lots are smaller.
He cited a draft policy on expanding affordable housing throughout the town that has not been approved yet. Also, Jennifer Donovan, who runs a business on Glenridge Avenue near the Bay Street railway station, said she was grateful for the two extra parking meters that were recently installed on the block, for a total of four meters for the six businesses, but she lamented that two other meters on Bay Street were removed to make room for emergency vehicles. She said that more parking was needed across the street for their clients, who find it hard to find convenient parking.
Baskerville said that she would like to arrange a return to the area with Director of Community Services Steve Wood to look at the area to see what can be done, and Donovan accepted the offer.
After the meeting, the Council held and executive session in which appointments and reappointments were made to the following boards and commissions: Robin Schlager, Anthony Ianuale, Carmel Loughman and Daniel Gilmer (all reappointed) to the Planning Board; Jonathan Moore and John McCullough reappointed and Jerry Simon appointed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBOA) as full members and Angela Harris appointed to the ZBOA as First Alternate, John Caulfield appointed to the ZBOA as Second Alternate and Chanel Gilmer appointed to the ZBOA as Third Alternate; David Cummings, Madeline Gale and Reubena Spence appointed to the Civil Rights Commission; Ben Rich, and Nicol Sobcyzk appointed to the Environmental Commission with Mac Carbonell appointed to the Environmental Commission as First Alternate; William Scott, Marcia Almeidam, John Cronogue, and Janet Shapiro all reappointed to the parks and Recreation Committee; and Louella Dudley, James Eason, Collin Minert and Sharon Sandusky all reappointed to the Senior Citizens Advisory Committee.
Baskerville also let it be known that the following committees are seeking volunteers: Committee on People with Disabilities, the Housing Commission and the Landlord Tenant Housing Advisory Committee.