All liquor licenses in Morristown are up for their annual renewals before the town council tonight, June 24, 2014, and a few may be particularly interesting to watch because of recent allegations, fines and pending applications.
Two establishments–the Dark Horse Lounge and the Creighton Mayes American Legion Post 312–face possible license suspensions of 40- and 33 days, respectively, over alleged violations dating to the winter, according to the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The Dark Horse Lounge on DeHart Street is charged with serving a pair of 20-year-olds back on Feb. 20. A third charge alleges that the nightclub promoted an “all you can drink” type of open bar, which is illegal, said Zach Hosseini, a spokesman for the state ABC.
Around the Labor Day holiday in 2010, the Dark Horse lost its license for five days. The bar had faced a series of charges that had the potential to shut it down for 245 days; the owners ultimately agreed to plead guilty to two violations: Allowing unlawful drinking, and conducting an unauthorized “all you can drink” raffle.
The American Legion post, meanwhile, faces three charges for allegedly failing to produce required documents in January and February. Copies of the post’s liquor license and accounting records were not on the premises, and the post failed to meet a seven-day window to produce a year’s worth of “delivery slips, invoices, manifests, waybills” and the like, according to legal papers filed by the state.
Both sets of charges were filed earlier this month; the Dark Horse and the American Legion post each each have until next week to respond. If they contest the charges, Hosseini said, an administrative law judge will hear their cases.
How these situations might affect this evening’s license renewals remains to be seen. The state gives great leeway to the town council, which serves as the municipality’s alcoholic beverage control authority, Hosseini said.
“We leave a lot up to the town,” the state spokesman said. “They can decide what’s relevant or what’s not. We pursue the allegations. The rest is totally up to them.”
In all, 42 establishments are up for liquor license renewals. These include 21 restaurants and bars; 14 retail outlets; five clubs; and the Hyatt Morristown and Morristown Performing Arts Center, which come under the category of “theater exceptions.”
Council members will have other developments to ponder, too.
Since its last license renewal, Sona Thirteen on South Street has paid a $10,292 fine to settle an allegation that it charged top-shelf prices for low-end alcohol.
It was among 29 places statewide targeted by state investigators as part of “Operation Swill” in May 2013. The fine was paid last August, according to the state.
Renewal documents for the Iron Bar also are noteworthy. That South Street establishment is scheduled to return to the council on July 16 for permission to extend its liquor license into an adjacent storefront for a new jazz bar and restaurant, the Iron Bistro.
Owners of the Iron Bar contend it’s vital for the Iron Bistro to serve alcohol until the same closing time as competitors. But renewal documents posted online by the town council still call for an 11 pm alcohol curfew that the council imposed in 2012, when the owners presented plans for a Mexican restaurant, the Gran Cantina.
Other conditions of that approval, which remain on the books, include the applicant’s hiring of one security guard for every 50 patrons on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and for special events; a smaller bar; and creation of an indoor storage area for trash and recyclables.
The Gran Cantina never happened. When the CUPS frozen yogurt shop vacated part of the adjacent storefront, Iron Bar principal owner Jimmy Cavanaugh proposed the 240-seat Iron Bistro as a place for 30- to 55-year olds to kick back with friends.
Recording artist John Ginty and an anthropologist testified earlier this month on behalf of the Iron Bistro.
Residents from surrounding upscale neighborhoods objected, citing late-night problems from downtown bar crowds. And Morristown Medical Center and a luxury condo association demanded removal of an Iron Bistro promotional video that they said falsely implied their support for the project.
In addition, conditional approvals appear to remain in place for Tashmoo to expand its liquor license next door on DeHart Street for a two-story restaurant with a retractable roof. The council signed off on that last year — stipulating a 10 pm closing time for the roof and an 11 pm curfew for alcohol.
But the owners shifted gears and are in the process of opening DeHarty’s, a deli, at that location.