Westfield Town Council Changes Liquor Law for Restaurants with Conditional Licenses

June 3, 2014 at 10:55 PM

WESTFIELD, NJ — Beginning Thursday, Westfield restaurants holding conditional liquor licenses will be allowed to serve patrons alcohol without necessarily seating them at a table or serving them food, and they will be able to serve at a bar. Only Councilwoman Vicki Kimmins voted no during the final vote on the ordinance, No. 2017, which was held at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting. Councilman Keith Loughlin was absent.

Restaurants holding conditional liquor licenses are Ferraro’s Restaurant, Sweet Waters Steak House, Fujiyama Mama, Akai Japanese Sushi Lounge and a new, to-be-named restaurant listed as UT Westfield LLC. These restaurants are still required to make at least 50 percent of their money from food sales. (Councilman James Foerst explained before the vote that this could be determined from sales tax records.)

The ordinance also changes the limitation on the number of musicians who can entertain at these establishments any given time from one to five and raises the town’s annual liquor license fees.

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About 30 residents attended the meeting, and many spoke both for and against the ordinance before the vote was held.

Some asked council members to consider how the change would affect Westfield years from now. Several told the council they felt there should be more research into how this would affect the town and how voters felt about the change.

One opponent said that changing the law could result in more DWI arrests, while another called that “fear mongering.”  (He was answered with boos and applause as he sat down.) One resident said the option to go out for a drink in town could result in people walking home instead of driving after drinking.

This woman praised Kimmins for voting against the ordinance during the preliminary vote two weeks ago:

“I do believe that this was very quickly done and there was a push to do it quickly,” Kimmins said before Tuesday’s vote. She told the audience that she believed this was done for the benefit of one or two places that were pushing for the change.

Councilwoman Jo Ann Neylan responded that she did not feel rushed, and that she did not believe that anyone on the council was approached or pressured “in any way, manner or form.”

Councilman Frank Arena said the town clerk had contacted the liquor control board in Trenton and discovered that Westfield was the only town with an ordinance like this one. He called the change “common sense.”

“We’ve done a lot of research into towns all around us,” said Arena. “Have they suffered from not having what we have on their licenses? My answer is no.”

The ordinance was one of several that were carried at Tuesday's town council meeting as part of the code review and town property committee’s efforts to update an antiquated town code. Ordinance 2021 requires anyone filming in Westfield to pay a fee. (Filming for educational purposes is exempt, and students would pay a reduced fee.) Other ordinances pertained to exterior property maintenance, streets and sidewalks and trees, shrubs, weeds and other plant growth.

A land use ordinance that would restrict any medical marijuana dispensary opening in Westfield to one approved zone and would limit hours and manner of operation will likely get a hearing and final vote at the next town council meeting on June 17, after the planning board has had a chance to approve it.

Related stories:

Westfield Restaurant Owners Speak Out on Proposed Change to Liquor Law:

Westfield Town Council Votes on Liquor License Laws, Medical Marijuana Dispensary Restrictions and More:

Westfield May Revamp Liquor License Laws, Limit Medical Marijuana Dispensary Locations:

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