Proposed jazz bistro has Morristown residents singing the blues

A proposed music venue on South Street has struck a sour note with neighbors, whose objections have prompted a hearing before the town council.

Plans for the Iron Bistro will be scrutinized by the council on June 4, 2014, at 6 pm.

Jimmy Cavanaugh, owner of the Iron Bar, seeks permission to extend that establishment’s liquor license into a recently vacated storefront next door, to create a restaurant and nightclub for an older crowd that likes live jazz and blues.

Nightlife, he contends, is vital to the vibrancy and economic health of the downtown.

NOT SO FAST, say neighbors of proposed Iron Bistro, which is advertising in window of its proposed future home. Photo by Kevin Coughlin.

NOT SO FAST, say neighbors of proposed Iron Bistro, which is advertising in window of its prospective future home. Photo by Kevin Coughlin.

Three residents of the 40 Park luxury condos begged to differ at Tuesday’s council meeting, citing ongoing late-night noise and litter problems from patrons of downtown bars who flock to Morristown on weekends.

Marie Rozan said a street sweeper clatters past her window at 3:30 am to mop up after those patrons, who make plenty of commotion on their own.

“If we have to barrage the police station with millions of calls, we’ll do it– because the bar owners are not doing their part,” added Donna Gaffney.

“When you’re a special interest in town, you get immediate responses. When you’re not, you get nothing,” said Christine Conti-Collins, a frequent critic of town hall.

She complained that trash from bars is attracting rodents to an alley shared by South Street bars and condos.  And heavy traffic and jaywalking near Starbucks and the Morristown Green are becoming dangerous, she said.

“When someone does get killed, you will be responsible,” Christine told council members. On her way out, she engaged in a loud exchange with Police Chief Pete Demnitz, who has stepped up enforcement of crosswalk safety in the wake of recent accidents.

Residents told the council they had not received notice of the proposed Iron Bar expansion, even though applicants are required to notify all residents within 200 feet of the site.

A notice is posted on the window of the premises, a cavernous space that until recently housed a CUPS frozen yogurt shop; and before that, housed the Zebu Forno café; and before that, a Foot Locker store and a Woolworth’s five-and-dime.  The legal notice also appeared in a newspaper.

In 2012, the council–which doubles as Morristown’s alcoholic beverage control commission–approved extending the Iron Bar’s liquor license for a Mexican restaurant to be called the Gran Cantina. The council stipulated that no liquor could be served there after 11 pm.

Jimmy Cavanaugh feels the curfew is unfair and will put the Iron Bistro at a competitive disadvantage with bars that stay open later. He has indicated that if the council does not reverse itself, he may increase the seating capacity of the Iron Bar.


Objections filed with the town clerk are urging local officials to think hard before approving any more alcohol-related ventures in a block that already has four.

Grist for future urban planning- and law school textbooks, this brewing battle for the heart and soul of Morristown pits competing visions and rights of business owners vs. those of citizens.

Some residents question how anyone at the Iron Bistro, sandwiched between Sona Thirteen and the Iron Bar, will hear jazz over the din of deejays and bands from those establishments.

The venerable Shanghai Jazz in Madison does just fine with early closing hours, 40 Park residents Eldon and Fern Priestly maintain in their letter to the town.

“Local Morristown residents might actually embrace a sophisticated, upscale jazz club,” the Priestlys write, “but we do not need any more bars preying on people’s weaknesses and filling our streets with drunks in the wee small hours of the morning.”

Notice for Iron Bistro liquor license request is posted in window. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Notice for Iron Bistro liquor license request is posted in window. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Their objection continues: “Everyone knows alcohol takes people in only one direction–down. Good people go bad under its influence. And Mr. Cavanaugh’s type of late night operation unfortunately preys upon the weakest of his patrons, those without the self-discipline to call it a night before they get stoned out of their mind.

“The rest of the community is then left with repairing the collateral damage done by these drunks turned out on our streets at 2 am. Do we really want Morristown to be known as North Jersey’s premier “watering hole” destination?”

The June 4 meeting will start with another special hearing, for Basking Ridge Towing. The town has suspended its local towing license over concerns about inadequate posting of towing signs in private lots where it operates.

Police felt that the resulting confusion–motorists discovering their cars had vanished without a trace–was creating safety concerns, town Attorney Vij Pawar told the council.  He declined to name the affected lots.






also, towing company hearing

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