Iron Bistro court battle, postponed until summer, to feature legal rematch

Applicant Billy Walsh, his lawyer Robert C. Williams, and former Morristown Mayor Jay DeLaney, an attorney representing a resident, at Wednesday's council hearing. The council rejected a proposed bowling alley/bar by a 3-2 vote. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Applicant Billy Walsh, his lawyer Robert C. Williams, and former Morristown Mayor Jay DeLaney, an attorney representing a resident, at Wednesday's council hearing. The council rejected a proposed bowling alley/bar by a 3-2 vote. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Applicant Billy Walsh, his lawyer Robert C. Williams, and former Morristown Mayor Jay DeLaney, an attorney representing a resident, at Wednesday's council hearing. The council rejected a proposed bowling alley/bar by a 3-2 vote. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Lawyer Robert C. Williams, center, and attorney and former Morristown Mayor Jay DeLaney, right, pictured here as adversaries in 2012, will square off again over the Iron Bar’s proposed expansion. Billy Walsh is seated to the left. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

A trial to determine the fate of the Iron Bar’s expansion — tentatively set to start on March 9, 2015–has been postponed until summer.  But it could prove worth the wait for fans of courtroom drama.

Attorney Jay DeLaney Jr. has joined the case on behalf of Iron Bar opponents — setting up a legal rematch with Robert C. Williams III, the lawyer for Iron Bar owner Jimmy Cavanagh.

DeLaney, a former Morristown mayor, and Williams squared off in 2012, sharing some spirited exchanges in another liquor license case.

One of the state’s premier lawyers for bar owners, Williams does not lose very often. But DeLaney’s side prevailed when aggrieved residents persuaded the town council to nix a license transfer by the Walsh family for a proposed a bowling alley/bar on DeHart Street.

During those hearings, DeLaney needled Williams for incorrectly referring to Morristown as a township. Williams accused DeLaney of unprofessional decorum and leading questions.

In the Iron Bar case, re-scheduled for June 26 before Administrative Law Judge Evelyn Marose in Newark, many of the same Morristown residents contend their quality of life continues to suffer because of drunken behavior by patrons of downtown bars.

The council responded to those concerns by imposing conditions on Cavanaugh’s extension of his Iron Bar license to an adjacent South Street storefront. He hopes to open a jazz bar/restaurant there called the Iron Bistro.

Alcohol sales must stop 11:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 11 pm on weeknights. Other bars serve until 2 pm.

“No matter what side of the issue you are on this is just plain wrong, and dishonest,” Cavanaugh commented on Morristown Green.

Asserting that his project was unfairly jeopardized , Cavanaugh appealed to the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which stayed the conditions. Now, local officials must prove their curfews are not “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.”

Attorney Elnardo Webster II is defending the council. Both sides agreed to allow DeLaney to join the case, representing residents Jack and Donna Gaffney.

“We’ll support the town of Morristown” at the trial, DeLaney said on Friday. He anticipates calling “at least 10 witnesses” to testify.

The trial date was pushed back to enable Williams to obtain information from those witnesses, said DeLaney. It may start even later, however, because of the Gaffneys’ vacation plans.

DeLaney described everything as cordial on the legal side.

“The lawyers want to work with each other,” he said.

UPDATE:

Williams described DeLaney as a “fine attorney,” and said he recalled no acrimony from 2012.

What’s important, he said on Saturday, is the Iron Bar’s contention that the Iron Bistro will bring no additional patrons to South Street.

“There will be no more traffic, no more people, just better food service,” said Williams. He said Iron Bar employees would monitor head counts next door at the Iron Bistro, and admit fewer patrons to the Iron Bar if necessary to ensure the combined occupancy does not exceed 1,040.

“If the same number of people are going to be in town with or without the Iron Bistro, what can be the legitimate complaint?” he said.

That, he said, is the key difference between the Iron Bistro and the rejected DeHart Street application, which would have created additional seats for alcohol-consuming customers.

Without the Iron Bistro, Williams continued, other BYOB restaurants could occupy the former CUPS yogurt shop and Zebu Forno coffee shop next to the Iron Bar, bringing more people downtown.

Williams and Webster could not be reached for comment on Friday. The judge’s decision will go to state ABC Director Michael Halfacre, who has the ultimate say, according to a spokesman for the division.

 

 

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Morristown green, how about putting up the letter received from the NJ Department of Motor Vehicles commending Iron Bar for their efforts in eliminating under age drinking. Iron Bar has confiscated counterfeit ID that are extremely difficult to distinguish from the real thing, according to the Department.

  2. Eric- the riff raff?? It is bringing money to the town and making the town very desirable for people to come to.

  3. The riff-raff that the Iron Bar brings to Morristown and that the Iron Bistro is bound to bring are not desirable. Let’s work on making Morristown a nice town for families, not a drinking hub for half-wit Jersey Shore caricatures.

  4. As a property owner and tax payer for 35 years in Morristown, the council president Feldman and others will have to justify spending taxpayers money on this political witch hunt. Iron Bar has spent over$25,000 to date for legal fees, I’m sure the town will spend over $100,000 fighting a business that is permitted in the central business district. At least 5 other bar restaurants have been permitted to open or expand without restrictions.

  5. I 100% agree with John. I have no problem with this project and I hope it opens. I would be better to look at than the empty space that is currently there.

  6. As a resident of morristown i see no problem at all with allowing them to open the bistro, but if that is allowed then the bowling alley/bar that the walsh family proposed should be allowed.

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