‘Novelties’ & smoke shop had folks fuming

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Kearny residents have apparently been spared the appearance of an “adult novelties” shop on the town’s main retail district where many tenants live above the stores.

At the June 24 Town Council meeting, Mayor Alberto Santos said that First Ward Councilman Albino Cardoso had gotten calls from some worried constituents about a sign posted in the window of the former Hot Nails salon at 257 Kearny Ave.

That sign advertised a “Smoke Shop & Adults Novelties Store Coming Soon…” Upon hearing the news, Cardoso told The Observer, “I was appalled. I never thought that would happen in the First Ward in the main avenue. In a residential area, it shouldn’t be allowed.”

And it won’t – at least not on Kearny Ave., the mayor maintained, because such a proposed use there doesn’t conform to the town’s zoning code — which, as the result of a 2007 amendment — credited to Councilwoman Susan Mc- Currie’s initiative “restricts sex-oriented businesses” to a part of the South Kearny industrial area, Santos said.

Actually, Santos was out of town – a weekend trip to Dallas – when word reached him about the prospective enterprise and he immediately alerted Town Administrator/ Construction Code Official Michael Martello about the situation.

“I call it the ‘Saturday night panic,’ ’’ quipped Martello. “The mayor reached out to me from Texas.”

So, on Monday, Martello said he went to the location and spoke to the property owner who told him that his new tenant had put up the sign in anticipation of opening the business which, according to Martello, the tenant planned to call “Sexy Smoke.”

The owner was instructed to have the sign removed, which he did, Martello said.

Should the tenant want to pursue the “adult novelties” pitch, the individual could file an application with the town Zoning Board of Adjustment and seek a variance from the existing zoning code restriction, Santos said. So far, though, that hasn’t happened.

But even if the individual were successful in persuading the zoning commissioners to allow the operation at the Kearny Ave. site, town Health Officer Kenneth Pincus cautioned there would still be an obstacle to installing the proposed “smoke shop” if it involved patrons’ use of “hookahs,” typically, smoking of flavored tobacco or nontobacco products through heated water pipes.

“Unless it’s a pre-existing use, you can’t have a hookah lounge in New Jersey,” Pincus said.

A 2011 public health administrative health advisory circulated by the state Division of Health & Senior Services advises local health agencies that in hookah bars or lounges, “… the use of hookahs for smoking – whether tobacco or non-tobacco products – is strictly prohibited by the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act [which took effect in 2006].…”

The law further defines smoking as “the burning of , inhaling from, exhaling the smoke from, or the possession of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco or any other matter that can be smoked.”

In the Garden State, smoking is banned in “in any indoor public place or workplace,” except in casino floors, cigar bars and lounges that make 15% of their income from tobacco products and tobacco retailers whose primary sales (equal to or greater than 51%) are from tobacco products.

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