The Kearny governing body on Dec. 18 defeated a proposal (ordinance) to permit liquor store retailers to open early when Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve fall on a Sunday.
Voting for the measure were Mayor Alberto Santos and Town Council members Carol Jean Doyle and Richard Konopka; in the opposition were council members Eileen Eckel, Susan McCurrie, Marytrine DeCastro, Peter Santana and Albino Cardoso.
Councilman Michael Landy was absent.
Representatives from BuyRite Liquors on Harrison Ave. and Kearny Plaza Discount Liquors on Passaic Ave. spoke in favor of the proposed amendment to the town’s ABC code at the public hearing on the measure.
There were no objectors from the public.
When the ordinance was introduced earlier in the month, Santos said he’d been approached by a liquor retailer asking the town to consider changing business hours to allow for the retail sale of alcoholic beverages to begin at 9 a.m. – instead of noon – on those holidays when they fall on a Sunday, as they do this year.
The time adjustment was desired, according to Santos, because those days – Christmas Eve in particular – are typically big sales days for liquor stores in Kearny and elsewhere.
Santos was willing to go along; not so, however, for a majority of the council – one of the rare instances where the mayor and legislative branch – or at least a majority – have split.
For Albino Cardoso, a First Ward representative, “there was no reason to make an exception” in the schedule for retail liquor sales. Customers, he said, “can buy the day before [the holiday]” or at some other time. “There’s no need to do that [change the time].”
McCurrie, a representative of the Fourth Ward, agreed. “I didn’t feel it was something we needed to do,” she said. “I’ve always regarded [the Sunday morning sale restriction] as a ‘time out,’ when you can’t buy liquor.’’
Sunday sanctity was a theme echoed by Santana, who represents the Second Ward. “Kearny is a place for families,” he said, “and while I understand the business side of the issue, I don’t think the majority of my constituents have any interest in going out and buying liquor during that time.”
Many of the residents in his ward, Santana said, prefer to use that time to attend worship services. Or, he said, “it’s good to stay home and enjoy the company of your family instead of going to a bar or liquor store.”
And, Cardoso added, if the timing was such a significant issue from a business point of view, why didn’t more retailers show up for the hearing? “We have a lot of liquor stores in Kearny,” he noted, yet, only two retailers appeared.
If local liquor retailers opt to press for the town to reconsider their stance on changing the Sunday hour provision, they might want to make a note the next time Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday is 2022.
In other business at the Dec. 18 meeting, the mayor and council did agree to pass a resolution calling on the state legislature to restore a shortfall of $434,241 in intermunicipal meadows tax sharing funding due Kearny for 2016 and calling on the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority to remedy a shortfall of $2,155,304 “that remains unpaid” for 2017.
The governing body also approved a memorandum of agreement with the Association of Department and Assistant Department Heads and Kevin Murphy that, according to town CFO Shuaib Firozvi, raises Murphy’s annual pay as deputy DPW superintendent, from his current step 5 level of $87,090 to step 12 level of $96,936.
Murphy “assumed the functional duties as the department head of Public Works in the absence of the Superintendent of Public Works effective Nov. 1, 2017,” the MOA resolution states.
Nov. 1 is the date Gerry Kerr retired as DPW superintendent.
Murphy lacks state certification for municipal DPW superintendent so he is continuing to work in his old title, Firozvi said.