Hoboken council votes to repeal ’500 foot rule’ for bars and restaurants

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The Hoboken City Council voted to repeal a controversial, decades old “500 foot rule” for bars and restaurants at last night’s meeting.

The 500 foot rule was adopted in 1966 to help regulate the locations of bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. The law requires establishments to be at a minimum of 500 feet from each other in order to receive a liquor license.

The public portion of the hearing was brief, with only a few residents speaking their mind on the subject.

“My biggest concern is that the residential quality of life in this city can be undermined by creating more business districts and then creating ways that can increase the density in businesses such as bars, which can disturb a neighborhood, the quiet neighborhoods,” said resident Dan Thompson.

“I am against getting rid of the 500 foot rule. I know that there was a lower amount of feet in the 60s but it was bar, bar, bar, bar, bar, bar and so … I think when the council makes changes, as serious as this, with the zoning board and heights and buildings, they can’t have the foresight to see down the road what might happen,” added resident Mary Ondrejka.

Prior to the vote, Councilman-at-Large James Doyle said that the ordinance would not create additional liquor licenses or bars, nor would it increase the density in any given project, therefore he had no issue supporting the measure.

2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said that she would not be supporting the ordinance since she felt it was being rushed and public safety concerns had not been addressed.

“My biggest concern that came out of the process, that was pushed really fast last summer, that started in the summer and was going to be voted on in August – when no one was around – and ended up having a public dialogue in the fall. What came out of it was a concern of concentration of bars,” recalled Fisher.

” … There was a lot of concern, when you have young people, late at night, who don’t live in Hoboken, they drink excessively, [they don't care] what they do to our community because they’re not respectful of our community, crimes are committed, violence that happens, etc.”

Fisher also said that she wanted the public more actively involved in the process.

Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla disagreed, reminding everyone that a public hearing was held back in September and that many different perspectives have been considered at this point.

Council President Jen Giattino noted that residents would still have a chance to give their input to the planning and/or zoning boards if they had any issues with a pending bar or restaurant project.

“I was happy to support relaxing the 500 foot rule in a way that balances both the interests and concerns of our community and gives more neighborhoods, including the redevelopment areas around our new parks, the opportunity to have restaurants,” Giattino said in a statement sent to Hudson County View this afternoon.

The council approved the measure by a vote of 6-1, with Fisher voting no and Councilmen Russo and DeFusco absent.

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