Over 50 Hoboken residents, restaurateurs and bar owners attended a special meeting held by the city council to learn more about how repealing the “500 foot rule” could either benefit, threaten or affect their quality of life.
City council members were the first to speak and Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla brought up the number of new developments over the next 10 to 20 years and how there is a “need for retail” to support them.
However, he openly admitted that he preferred to live uptown because of quality of life issues, preferring a quieter neighborhood.
Both Councilman-at-Large James Doyle and 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo addressed one common concern among residents: repealing the law would not cause an increase of liquor licenses in the city.
“This would not mean that the neighborhood would be filled with bars and restaurants. There’s still protections in place by two boards (zoning board and planning board),” explained Doyle.
He also stated that the Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC) would be working on regulating the transfers of liquor licenses, in the event that the restaurants and bars decide to relocate.
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 have a liquor license.
1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco explained that he chose to live in downtown Hoboken because of the restaurant scene.
“Food culture is what is going to continue to make our city vibrant and lively,” he said.
DeFusco further stated that while regulating licenses is important, relying on the zoning would be detrimental to the city.
“I cannot disagree with Councilman Doyle more” he said on that point.
When it was time for the public to speak, it seemed that the room was slightly divided.
Eugene Flinn, owner of Elysian Café, Amanda’s and Schnackenberg’s, pointed out that the law was put in place for a reason.
“We want to make sure that the restaurants spread out. If you change the law, they’re not going to move to the 3rd and 4th ward, they’re going to move to Washington Street because there’s more foot traffic,” Flinn claimed.
Mike Gallucci, owner of Green Rock Tap & Grill, explained that repealing this law would keep the landlords from hiking up the rental costs of spaces that allow for liquor licenses.
Gallucci mentioned Maxwell’s and Tutta Pasta and how they were ‘price gauged by their landlord’ and put the out of business.
City council members agree that there are very strong cases on both sides and they will take their time to really understand the effects on repealing the 500 foot rule.
Further discussion will continue at the next city council meeting on October 5.
especially along Washington Street and areas close to the Path terminal.