Town awaits ABC ruling on bar


Theresa Sullivan was happy when she bought her brand new house on Brighton Ave. in Kearny’s First Ward.

After all, there was a bar next door where she could hang out with her neighbors and watch wide-screen TV.

But all that changed, she said, when a new management took over the tavern.

“I wouldn’t set foot in there now,” Sullivan said.

The aggrieved resident was talking about The Gin Mill, at the corner of Brighton and Afton Aves., with which the town has been engaged in a protracted legal battle for the past year.

Ever since the governing body voted in late May 2014 to shut the bar for 60 days after the licensee pleaded no defense to allowing narcotics activity there Oct. 8, 2013; purchase of alcohol from a prohibited source, transporting alcohol without proper documents and allowing a public nuisance, all on Dec. 21, 2013; failure to maintain a complete employee list, failure to maintain invoices and other paperwork violations.

The then-attorney for the licensee asked the governing body to delay the closure until June 5 so that his client could hold a planned “special event” that upcoming weekend and vowed that he would “take every measure to maintain control.” The council said they’d go along.

However, that never happened because, “the following day [the owner] filed an appeal with the state ABC,” asking the state ABC director to “translate the suspension into a monetary fine,” Town Attorney Greg Castano reminded the council last week.

The town filed an objection and a state Office of Administrative Law judge ruled that the ABC director “has the discretion to impose a fine in place of a suspension,” Castano said. “So this matter isn’t over – it hasn’t been decided. The director will issue a decision and if we disagree, we can still appeal to the [state] Appellate Division.”

In the meantime, Castano said, the tavern remains open for business.

That doesn’t help Sullivan, who told the council last week, “I have to clean vomit off my front steps and my alleyway which the bar’s patrons use as a urinal. Cigarette butts are dumped in the alleyway. … Liquor and beer bottles are in my bushes. Patrons are leaning or sitting on my car. The last two years have been really hard.”

And when she complains to the bar’s management, she said, “I’ve gotten yelled at. The owner does nothing about it.”

Sullivan said she’s reluctant to call the police every time something happens for fear of being a burden.

But Councilwoman Eileen Eckel said that Sullivan should not be concerned about bothering the KPD with these types of problems. “No one should have to live like that,” Eckel said.

In fact, when the governing body was weighing the annual renewal of the tavern’s license, it stipulated, among the conditions for extending the license, that the bar’s manager had to call police if a disturbance broke out that it couldn’t control on its own. But in the aftermath of the bar’s legal challenge to the 60-day suspension, the ABC director suspended the renewal application process pending the outcome of the appeal.

Mayor Alberto Santos assured Sullivan that the KPD “is fully aware of the ongoing issues [involving The Gin Mill]” and that the police would continue to monitor the situation.

Montclair attorney John T. Ambrosio, who is currently representing the licensee, was asked by The Observer for a reaction to Sullivan’s gripes but Ambrosio said that since he was not in the council chambers at the time and had no direct knowledge of the issues she raised, he had no comment.

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