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They won’t drink to that: Morristown council majority defends Blue Law
They won’t drink to that: Morristown council majority defends Blue Law
They won’t drink to that: Morristown council majority defends Blue Law

Published on: 07/10/2024

Description

Town Attorney David Minchello fields Blue Law question from Third Ward Councilman Steve Pylypchuk, July 9, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

If you want to spark animated debate at a Morristown council meeting, it takes just two words:

Blue Law.

During a lively discussion on Tuesday, a 5-2 majority agreed with Mayor Tim Dougherty that the town “Blue Law” banning Sunday alcohol sales before noon is reasonable and should remain.

‘GIVE THE COPS A BREAK’: Mayor Tim Dougherty, left, defends Sunday Blue Law before the Morristown council. Town Attorney David Minchello, center, and Councilman Steve Pylypchuk listen, July 9, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

No ordinance was before the governing body. The talk was prompted last month by a new local distillery, Dismal Harmony. It was hoping to offer free tastings and sell bottles of whiskey at the Morristown Farmers Market, where another out-of-town distillery apparently has been doing so for some time.

That distillery must stop, said town Attorney David Minchello. Sunday morning liquor sales and samples are illegal, according to his interpretation of town law. Although farmers markets are licensed by the state, he said, local alcohol ordinances take precedence.

‘MURPHY’S LAW’: Fourth Ward Councilman Chris Russo defends Blue Law, Morristown council, July 9, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Dougherty defended quiet Sunday mornings. Residents and especially, cops, he said, deserve a break after the deluge of drinkers who pour into downtown bars on Saturday nights. He predicted trouble from fans of soccer, rugby and other international sports who watch Sunday morning telecasts in bars, if alcohol is added to the mix.

“We’re talking about booze sales,” Dougherty said. “It’s all about money.”

Council President Nathan Umbriac said he enjoys peaceful Sunday morning strolls with his wife and four kids, and wants the peace to continue.

Council Vice President David Silva speaks for keeping Blue Law, Morristown council, July 9, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Chris Russo, whose Fourth Ward has seen friction between residents and bars over the years, cited “Murphy’s Law.” If anything can go wrong, eventually it will — bringing liability if someone overindulges at the Farmers Market and causes injuries, Russo cautioned.

At-large Council Members Toshiba Foster and David Silva voiced concerns about opening a Pandora’s box. “People in our town like to drink,” Foster said.

The council already grants permits easing the rules for special occasions, noted Silva, a pastor. “We don’t want a St. Patrick’s Day every Sunday here,” he said.

At-large Councilwman Toshiba Foster says drinking is a problem in parts of town; Morristown council, July 9, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

But Morristown has become a destination for bridal showers and other weekend events, said Kevin Felice of the Villa Restaurant Group, which operates The Office, Town Bar + Kitchen and Nom in town. The Blue Law puts local businesses at a disadvantage with nearby municipalities, he said.

It’s a quirky system. Third Ward Councilman Steve Pylypchuk pointed out it’s legal to bring your own alcohol to a restaurant for a mimosa with Sunday brunch, as he has done.

An informal survey of his constituents found only one with any objections to Sunday morning liquor sales, Pylypchuk said.

Repealing or modifying the Blue Law has unanimous support from trustees of the Morristown Partnership, said Pylypchuk, council liaison to the nonprofit. The Partnership advocates for businesses and runs the Farmers Market, open from 8:30 am to 1 pm on Sundays from June through November.

First Ward Councilman Robert Iannaccone, right, suggests alcohol sales need more scrutiny on Saturday nights, not Sunday mornings. Fourth Ward Councilman Chris Russo listens, July 9, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

On other days of the week, liquor may be sold at 7 am. Pylypchuk inquired about any problems stemming from those morning sales. Dougherty said he did not know.

Historically, Sunday prohibitions were established to satisfy Christian congregations; that may be unfair to other faiths, suggested First Ward Councilman Robert Iannaccone.

He said his constituents, like Pylypchuk’s, seem to have no qualms about repealing the Blue Law, and neither do three churches in his district.

If the Saturday night bar scene is straining law enforcement as the mayor indicated, perhaps that is what the council should be addressing, Iannaccone said.

IN OTHER BUSINESS…

Dougherty expressed condolences to the family of retired Police Sgt. Brendan Briscoe, who died from cancer this month at age 53.

“He was a special guy,” the mayor said.

By unanimous votes, the council approved salary ranges for nonunion employees (the max is $215,000), along with annual stipends for the mayor ($27,501) and council ($10,217, plus an extra $1,000 for the council president).

Jason Olmo, who lives near Martin Luther King Avenue, choked up describing health problems posed by a neighbor’s tree cutting business. The neighbor brings home wood and burns it around the clock, Olmo said, sending acrid smoke into his house.

That’s despite $20,000 worth of new windows, and complaints to multiple agencies, Olmo said. He described the hard choice of removing his window air conditioners and sweltering, or drawing smoke inside, where he has a seven-month-old daughter.

“I’m essentially here begging for help for my family,” the resident said.

Morristown resident Andre Harris asks council for night basketball at the Cauldwell Playground, July 9, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Town hall will investigate on Wednesday, the mayor said. “Government standing up for people and helping people when they need help, that’s our job…we’ll get the job done,” Dougherty told Olmo.

Andre Harris from Manahan Village asked the council to authorize night basketball at the Cauldwell Playground. Players aged 18 to 40 have been coming on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays for six years, he said.

“We have really good games at Cauldwell, and not one single punch has been thrown. Not one,” said Harris, a former coach at Frelinghuysen Middle School who credited playground basketball with his success at Morristown High and Centenary University.

Upcoming events highlighted by the mayor include:

  • A mobile unit from the state Motor Vehicle Commission, coming to the town hall parking lot July 16-17, 2024. Take care of title, registration and “REALID” needs; reservations are recommended.
  • A free screening of Trolls Band Together, July 18 at 7:30 pm in Lidgerwood Park.
  • Also at 7:30 pm on July 18, the Verizon 5K race, starting and ending at Morristown High.
  • Diversity Day returns to the Morristown Green on July 21, from noon to 5 pm
  • Centro Biblico’s Hope Festival comes to the Cauldwell Playground on July 27.

Author :

Source Url : https://morristowngreen.com/2024/07/10/they-wont-drink-to-that-morristown-council-majority-defends-blue-law/

News Source : https://morristowngreen.com/2024/07/10/they-wont-drink-to-that-morristown-council-majority-defends-blue-law/

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