The ‘New Tashmoo’: Classy seafood place, or just another watering hole? Morristown council gets an earful

Is an establishment that serves food and alcohol a restaurant or a bar?

Witnesses line up to testify for and against proposed expansion of the Tashmoo Restaurant & Bar in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Witnesses line up to testify for and against proposed expansion of the Tashmoo Restaurant & Bar in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

It’s a crucial distinction to aggravated Morristown residents, who told the town council on Tuesday that a proposed six-fold expansion of the Tashmoo Restaurant & Bar  will add more drunks, noise, trash and parking problems to neighborhoods fed up with weekend bar crowds.

It’s just as important to Tashmoo’s Dave Walsh. He boasts of a spotless record at Tashmoo since 2008, contends he meets all requirements for an expansion, and aims to invest up to $1.5 million to put a seafood restaurant with 50 jobs and a $250,000 retractable roof at 10 DeHart St., next to Tashmoo.

After hearing nearly four hours of testimony–by many of the same combatants from last summer’s failed proposal for a bowling alley/bar at the same address–the council called it a night and set an April 10 return date for deliberations.

‘LIKE PICCADILLY CIRCUS IN WORLD WAR II’

“It’s a restaurant first, second and third,” testified Eric Sellin, former owner and chef at Manriques in Mendham, and general manager of the proposed establishment on DeHart Street.

He said the new Tashmoo would specialize in fresh seafood, serving lunch, “early bird specials,” and dinners until about 10 pm, when the menu would revert to lighter fare until 2 am.

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That’s the part that most worried residents in the packed council chambers. Many said they would welcome a seafood restaurant–but feared that its four bars would transform the place into another late-night watering hole after the kitchen closed.

“I would not be speaking against this tonight if it really were, as described, a restaurant,” said Eldon Priestley, a resident of the luxury condos at 40 Park. “For me, it’s what happens between 11:30 and 2 am, and then what happens after 2 am, when all these people come spilling out onto the street.”

His neighbor, Richard Amster, said insomnia drives him to late-night strolls on weekends. DeHart Street, home to the Dark Horse Lounge and Tashmoo, is “an uncontrolled madhouse,” Richard said.  One summer night he observed pushing and yelling on the street, a man urinating in an alley, and couples making out in dark recesses. “It reminded me of Piccadilly Circus in World War II.”

SUNDAY MORNING BRUNCHES?

Tashmoo now seats about 50 people and has 1,500 square feet of space, according to architect Ray Caselli. The proposed two-story structure, which would  connect to Tashmoo across an alley, should seat 228 and encompass 9,000 square feet, including a gated courtyard. The four bars would total 122 feet in length, with approximately 60 stools.

Plans call for the Tashmoo Restaurant & Bar, on the left, to connect across this alley to a new restaurant/bar that would replace the white house. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Plans call for the Tashmoo Restaurant & Bar, on the left, to connect across this alley to a new restaurant/bar that would replace the white house. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

These bars would be essential for private functions, said Eric Sellin, who envisions Sunday morning brunches, cooking demonstrations and wine tastings for charity.

The retractable roof will draw diners of all ages to Morristown, he said, for $25 entrees that will make them forget about “pub grub.”

Last year the council imposed an 11 pm curfew for liquor sales as a condition of the Iron Bar’s liquor license expansion to the Gran Cantina, an adjacent Mexican restaurant in the former Zebu Forno space on South Street.

But the new Tashmoo will be more akin to restaurants like Roots, Urban Table, David Todd’s City Tavern and Sebastian’s Steakhouse–places that are not saddled with such curfews, said Robert Williams, the lawyer for Tashmoo.

‘DEALING WITH THE FALLOUT’

Tuesday’s battle lines largely were generational, pitting younger residents against older ones who can afford pricey condos and splendid homes in the historic district.

One self-described “young professional,” Trevor Jones, bristled at being lumped together with revelers who vomit and urinate on sidewalks.

A Tashmoo barmaid portrayed the present place as a cozy meeting spot for patrons between ages 30 and 50. “It’s one of the chillest places in town,” said Melissa Wirths.

Her father, Tashmoo partner Matt Wirths, expressed sympathy for the condo dwellers–to a point. “These people have chosen to live downtown in our business district, and now they’re dealing with the fallout of living in a city.”

ELECTION BARBS

Opponents of the expansion reminded town officials that they vote, a message they hope resonates in a year when the mayor and three council members seek re-election.

The sharpest barbs at officials came from a 40 Park resident. Christine Conti-Collins was a vociferous adversary of the bowling alley and bar, but supports Tashmoo’s expansion. She insisted the town must “do its job” of managing situations it has created by allowing luxury housing and bars to proliferate, cheek-by-jowl.

Christine was particularly incensed that nothing has come from a council committee formed last year to tax bars for extra police patrols, security now underwritten by taxpayers.

“It’s incredible they can’t issue a transparent report on that committee,” she said. “I don’t know what they’ve been doing for nine months.”

Dave Walsh, whose family owns the Dark Horse Lounge and Sona Thirteen, said they were wondering about that, too.

“We’re more than willing to contribute,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for a note to come in the mail saying, ‘This is your percentage.’”

 

 

 

 

 



Comments

  1. This is getting ridiculous. The Welsh’s have had this liquor license for a few years now, they’ve tried at least three times to do something with it and every time they are shut down. I understand Morristown on the weekends can be a hassle for traffic around the green and the occasional appearance of someone doing something not in great taste, but there’s at least 10 cops in front of De Hart St. at all times from 12 to 2 on Fridays and Saturdays, they can handle it. Morristown is becoming a young people town, a drinking town. It brings business to the town, makes younger people move into the town and with this New Tashmoo it sounds like a few jobs will appear. Enough it enough, let another bar happen on De Hart St., the rich white people who live around there can live with another bar.

  2. Perhaps the Walsh family should consider opening a Prune Juice Bar with a rooftop shuffleboard area. They could even have Canasta Wednesdays!!!!

  3. Dave Breault says:

    Lets get rid of ALL the bars in Morristown, and charge all the pretentious residents in the “historic district” more property taxes to replace the lost revenue. “Not in my backyard” is a pretty lame argument against a vibrant new/expanded business in “the business district”. While we’re at it, lets cancel the st. patricks parade, first night, the jazz festival, and anything else that might disturb the 1% up in their 40 Park Penthouses.

  4. Richard T. says:

    Why should Morristown even need “10 cops in front of DeHart street on the weekends” in the first place? Is that the result of Morristown becoming a “young people’s town, a drinking town”? Then that’s a problem for a lot of other people.
    Do you really think that kind of environment is healthy for any town for the long term? I don’t think so and a some more jobs and one more place to eat and drink (in addition to all there is already) is a very short sighted view. Morristown needs to keep attracting a variety of people and that also includes families and empty nesters as well. Soon, this town will no longer be a destination for those people. They’ll be wary of investing in homes anywhere near town where there is too much concentration of places serving alcohol till 2 am.

    Each application to the ABC board is decided on a case by case and location dependent basis. DeHart is a small street that is a transition area and buffer between South Street and many residences, and any new establishments should keep that scale for the area and not be too big or be serving alcohol until 2 am. When the new owners of the Maple St. townhomes move in, not to mention the to-be-built apartrments on the vacant lot on DeHart, they are all in for a similar upset at what goes on in town on the weekends, just outside their doors. I don’t wonder why I see so many 40 Park residences listed for sale.

  5. Something tells me that there is nothing that would make Eldon Priestley and Richard Amster happy other than a complete shutdown of all activity after 9pm. They would prefer a curfew, ala Martial Law, where only residents of Park Place are allowed to stroll around at 2am with their doctors’ note for insomnia. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Tashmoo and Dark Horse were around long before 40 Park Place. Don’t come complaining if you didn’t do your homework on the luxury condo you bought and its surrounding neighborhood.

  6. Eldon Priestley says:

    Jeff,

    I just sent Matthew Stechauner a letter detailing what I believe should be done and I would be happy to send you a copy if i had your email address. I believe we would reach an economically fair resolution if the bar owners were required to pay the costs of controlling the bar operations, which are now borne by taxpayers. A quote from my letter: “I think making the bar owners pay whatever it costs to render the way they choose to operate acceptable to the community is totally justified. If done right, the economics will push the bar owners to a sustainable operating model and quiet the complaints of nearby residents.” Another quote: “What other business could get away with causing so much negative im¬pact in the community in which they operate while sticking the resident taxpayers with the costs of remedying it?” I don’t advocate shutting them down…I just want the playing field to be leveled.

  7. Sounds to me like the people commenting on this article that are for the plan don’t disagree with those people that are against the plan. They see the proposal for what the neigh-sayers are calling it – another bar or “watering hole”. The only difference between the two camps is whether or not they want another bar regardless of its proximity to single family housing and town houses.

    I think the board should take note here and see that the pro-expansion comments (so far) are really pro more bars.

    The real issue with any late nightlife expansion is the understaffed police department. Expanding Tashmoo won’t expand the police dept and frankly, I’d rather see our police working on real crime in townn rather than keeping the peace between drunk twenty somethings.

  8. Robert Breasely says:

    I think taxing the bars is an excellent idea. But I suspect in all fairness, the property taxes the bars are currently paying would have to be abated for the hours they are not in operation. It’s not fair to say, pay for what you use, oh and pay for what you don’t use. Some of us have children in school while others don’t, should we only tax those currently property owner’s with kids in school?

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