Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla has unveiled the city’s Public Safety Task Force, which includes Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante and Acting Fire Chief Brian Crimmins, whose goal is to curtail unruly bar crawls in the city.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“We can no longer ignore the fact that a small number of establishments are creating a big problem for everyone else in the form of violence, property damage, and financial cost,” Bhalla said in a statement.
“When a person comes from out of town and spits in the face of our officers, as has happened numerous times, that is unacceptable. When an officer is assaulted by an inebriated patron and receives a concussion, as happened to Officer Lombardi on Christmas Eve, I will not allow the status quo to continue.”
The task force also includes Police Capt. Pasculli, Police Sgt. Kucz, Police Sgt. Montanez, Health Officer Frank Sasso, Battalion Fire Chief Buoncuore, Fire Captain DiVincent, Business Administrator Stephen Marks, Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia, and Environmental Services Director Leo Pellegrini.
In 2017, there were 277 ABC violations by liquor license holders and out of 133 liquor license holders, more than half received zero tavern sheets in 2017 and more than 75 percent received two or fewer tavern sheets, the mayor’s office said.
Furthermore, half of all violations in 2017 were issued to just 11 establishments, which speaks for just 8 percent of license holders. Since August 2017, 15 police officers have been attacked, the majority occurring late at night by intoxicated patrons.
Finally, on SantaCon, 17 bars received tavern sheets, while the remaining 87 percent of establishments were not issued violations.
“The Mayor’s creation of this task force is not about hurting the bar and restaurant industry in town,” added Ferrante.
“This task force is going to take a deep look into incidents, events, and problem bars that are contributing to a decay of our city’s quality of life, causing injuries to our residents, visitors, and police officers, and hurting most of the businesses in town, including a majority of our bars and restaurants.”
Police officer and past president of the Hoboken PBA, Vincent Lombardi, who suffered a concussion from an assault by an inebriated patron on Christmas Eve, supports the Task Force’s efforts.
“The escalation of disorderly and violent behavior by inebriated bar patrons against police officers, of which I am a recent victim, has spawned into a quality of life crisis. I welcome and fully support Mayor Bhalla’s decision in addressing this ugly trend for the sake of officer safety and serenity within our city.”
The first step in the Task Force’s efforts, based on the recommendation of the Hoboken Fire Department, is to increase the fines levied for overcrowding and other imminent hazards during all high-volume events to the maximum amount permitted by the Uniform Fire Code Statutes and Regulations.
Fines for non-compliance will increase to $2,500 for a first offense and $5,000 for subsequent offenses. Additional steps will be taken by the Task Force in the coming weeks.
“At Little City Books we are grateful to Mayor Bhalla for addressing this issue,” said co-owner Kate Jacobs.
“On the corner of 1st and Bloomfield, we are surrounded by bars that are generally very good neighbors, keeping our surrounding blocks lively. The ‘Cons,’ however, are severely damaging to the success of our business — especially SantaCon which occurs on a Saturday before Christmas, a critical day for a low-profit margin business like a bookstore, which should be our most profitable day of the year.”
She also alleged that her staff is “harassed and intimidated by drunk people” causing them to close early and bring business down.
During his inauguration speech, Bhalla said he would be creating a task force that would ultimately put an end to bar crawls like SantaCon and LepreCon.