Government

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

Councilman James Foerst  (left, with Councilman Mark LoGrippo) argues that people who wish to go out for a drink but not necessarily for dinner are spending their money in other towns. Credits: Jackie Lieberman

WESTFIELD, NJ — Only Councilwoman Vicki Kimmins voted no Tuesday night to an ordinance changing Westfield's liquor license laws to allow restaurants with conditional liquor licenses to serve food and alcohol at a bar and serve patrons alcohol without necessarily seating them at a table or serving them food. Restaurants with these licenses would still be required to make at least 50 percent of their money from food sales.

A public hearing on the ordinance, number 2017, will take place June 3 before a final vote is held, after which the ordiance could take effect.

Kimmins told TAP earlier this month that she was totally opposed to the change in the law.

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“I believe it will change the fabric of our downtown,” she said. “As lovely as Summit and Cranford are, I am not looking for Westfield to become Summit or Cranford. Westfield has the reputation it has for a reason. I enjoy that our town is not full of ‘bars.’ Our downtown sidewalk cafe tables are currently enjoyed by families, and I would like to keep it that way.”

To read that earlier story, click here.

Before the vote, several Westfield residents told the council that they were in favor of changing the law. But one resident, John Blake, argued against it, as he did at the last meeting. Among his arguments, he said that the availability of alcohol would increase by 150 percent.

Councilman James Foerst, chair of the code review and town property committee, responded that the ordinance would not increase the number of liquor licenses from 10.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7q8NQNjIn0

Later, Foerst argued that people who wish to go out for a drink but not necessarily for dinner are going to other towns to do so. Councilwoman Jo Ann Neylan, Councilman Frank Arena and Councilman Sam Della Fera echoed that.

“We want our downtown to be as successful as possible and in my mind we’re hindering that success,” said Della Fera of the existing law.

The ordinance would also change the limitation on the number of musicians who can entertain at these establishments any given time from one to five and would raise the town’s annual liquor license fees, per state guidelines.

The ordinance was one of several that passed on first reading 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 2022 would restrict any medical marijuana dispensary opening in Westfield to one approved zone, and would limit hours and manner of operation.

Foerst told the council at a conference meeting earlier that evening that the town would not be able to completely restrict medical marijuana dispensaries from opening in Westfield.

Ordinance 2021 would require anyone filming in Westfield to pay a fee. (Filming for educational purposes would be exempt, and students would pay a reduced fee.) Currently, the law only requires a fee for filming on public property.

“The burden upon the town is the same whether on public or private land,” said Foerst.

Other ordinances pertained to exterior property maintenance, streets and sidewalks and trees, shrubs, weeds and other plant growth.

Councilman Keith Loughlin was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

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