SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- Village restaurants may find it easier to offer outdoor seating if the Board of Trustees moves forward with rule change discussed at Thursday's meeting.

The Board debated at Thursday's meeting whether to amend an existing ordinance requiring restaurants to bring tables and chairs inside during the hours they are closed at Thursday’s meeting. The idea, from a recommendation from South Orange Village Center Alliance Director Bob Zuckerman, would allow restaurants to provide a more aesthetically pleasing furniture for outdoor dining. Under the current ordinance, Zuckerman said, it is too difficult for restaurants to put out nicer furniture, such as wrought iron. 

“Anything that the village can do to encourage al fresco dining we would fully support,” Zuckerman said.

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In addition to possibly amending the outdoor furniture ordinance, the village is considering waiving the zoning fee that restaurants are required to pay in order to allow outdoor seating. The fee would be waived for businesses up until Memorial Day and is designed to encourage more restaurants in South Orange to provide outdoor seating. 

While the board was mostly in agreement on the outdoor dining issue, another item saw much debate. Village President Alex Torpey’s reported that the village was working with a third-party vendor that would allow residents to pay village fees using the nascent digital currency Bitcoin. Torpey reiterated that the village itself would not be accepting Bitcoin, rather that the vendor converts the money to U.S. currency and that it is at no-cost and no-risk to the village. 

Trustee Sheena Collum asked whether the Finance and Information Technology committee supported the idea.

Trustee Mark Rosner said that there weren’t enough residents who wanted to use the currency to justify the service.  “No one is requesting to use Bitcoins,” Rosner said. 

Trustee Howard Levison, who chairs the Finance and IT Committee, said they recommended against moving forward with the process and wanted to see the contract with the third-party vendor.

Torpey emphasized that there was a misunderstanding among the board members and that the Bitcoin payment plan poses no risk to the village. 

“You’re spinning your wheels in a way that’s just really unproductive,” Torpey said to Levison, “because you perceive that there is some opposition to this among a few people on some anonymous message board when, really, nobody else cares about it. People that I’ve talked to in the community that want to see us as a leader in technology  appreciate that we’re doing something innovative and that we’re doing something a little bit different.”

In other action, the Board of Trustees:

  • reported on the survey of residents asking them to propose a name for the Irvington Avenue corridor. They have narrowed it down to three choices: South Orange Uptown, Irvana or Seton Village. Residents can vote on the village website
  • learned asbestos abatement continues at Village Hall and should be completed by the first week of May 
  • are asking for volunteers to help reestablish the First Night New Year’s celebration after a two-year hiatus

The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.