Thirty-nine liquor licenses were renewed on Tuesday night in the time it took for six Morristown council members to say “yes.”
Tashmoo required considerably more exposition, legal parsing and head-scratching to maintain its fuzzy status quo.
And the Dark Horse Lounge and Sona Thirteen have lots more explaining ahead of them to hang onto their licenses.
Those two establishments are facing charges of liquor law violations–four against the Dark Horse, and 10 against Sona, according to Council President Rebecca Feldman–and so the council declined to vote on their renewals.
Their licenses expire on Monday. To continue serving liquor, they must obtain temporary permits from the state until the council holds hearings on Aug. 13, 2014.
As reported here, the Dark Horse faces a potential 40-day license suspension for allegedly serving a pair of 20-year-olds back on Feb. 20, and for allegedly promoting an illegal “all you can drink” type of open bar, according to the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Last summer, Sona Thirteen paid a $10,292 fine to settle a state charge that it passed off cheap liquor as the good stuff. The council declined to elaborate on the nature of the new charges.
Councilwoman Alison Deeb favored renewing Sona Thirteen’s license, explaining later that she thought the bar had resolved its problems with the state last year.
More confusing–make that bewildering–was the back and forth over Tashmoo’s renewal, which was approved unanimously (sans Councilwoman Michelle Dupree Harris, who was absent) after much discussion.
The uncertainty revolved around the Walsh family’s intentions for a property adjacent to the bar on DeHart Street.
Last year, the council approved the bar’s request to extend its license next door, where the owners proposed a two-story restaurant with a retractable roof. The council imposed conditions that included a curfew for serving alcohol and 10 pm closing times for the roof.
But construction never got off the ground; instead, a deli called DeHarty’s is about to open inside a house on the property.
David Walsh, representing Tashmoo, said the town clerk sent word 12 days ago that Tashmoo’s license would be jeopardized if owners did not take steps to reverse last year’s license expansion.
After all, a deli is not what the applicants pitched last year.
Reluctantly, the family informed the town that it would start the reversal process, technically called a place-to-place transfer.
But David Walsh and his brother Brian Walsh told the council they felt this was unfair; the deli simply may be a temporary business until the family works out details for erecting the restaurant.
“The two projects are proceeding simultaneously,” said Brian Walsh, who described himself as the lease-holder of DeHarty’s.
His family can terminate his lease if and when it decides to proceed with the restaurant, he said, further asserting that the family knew of no deadlines attached to last year’s Tashmoo extension approval.
Town Attorney Vij Pawar acknowledged that no deadlines are prescribed by law; how long someone can sit on a liquor license expansion is pretty much up to the council’s discretion, he said.
The attorney presented three options to the council. But the nuances left Brian Walsh–a Harvard-educated physician–and just about everyone else in the sparse audience shrugging their shoulders.
Finally, the council renewed Tashmoo’s license with last year’s expansion and all its stipulations intact. Tacked on was one “whereas,” acknowledging the applicant’s stated intention to “de-license” its expansion.
What, if any, leverage that clause gives the council was unclear.
The Iron Bar, meanwhile, also was renewed with outdated license expansion terms. In 2012, the South Street establishment was granted permission–with restrictions–to extend its license into an adjoining storefront for a new Mexican restaurant, the Gran Cantina.
But those plans have shifted, to a jazz bar and restaurant, to be called the Iron Bistro. A second hearing on that application is scheduled for July 16.