Following through on legal warnings he made last year, Iron Bar owner Jimmy Cavanaugh has sued his former friend, Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, under federal racketeering laws.
In papers filed in U.S. District Court on April Fool’s Day, Cavanaugh reiterated claims that Dougherty has thrown roadblocks — physically and procedurally — against his downtown businesses ever since Cavanaugh rebuffed the mayor’s attempt to invest in the Iron Bar under his son’s name.
The former Essex County freeholder accuses the mayor, Councilman Stefan Armington, and the town of inflicting more than $150,000 of hurt on him by slapping curfews on one bar, placing illegal roadblocks outside two establishments, and killing a third proposed venture by denying a liquor license expansion.
Dougherty called Cavanaugh’s charges a “work of fiction.” Asked if they ever discussed a partnership, he said: “Absolutely not.”
Armington declined to comment.
In a statement, attorney Richard Trenk of Roseland-based McManimon, Scotland & Baumann, said the allegations “are wholly without merit. The Town, Mayor Dougherty and Council Member Armington have retained our firm and intend to vigorously oppose all relief sought.”
The civil suit challenges:
- The imposition of curfews on Cavanaugh’s Revolution beer hall, adjacent to the Iron Bar. Despite their inability to cite any problems or violations at either venue, town officials ordered alcohol curfews of 11 PM Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 PM on Fridays and Saturdays at Revolution. Other bars can operate until 2 am. Several times, these curfews have been nullified by administrative law judges and the state Division of Alcohol Beverage Control.
- Roadblocks outside Cavanaugh’s bars during prime late night hours. This police presence falsely implies dangerous activities, hinders patrons’ hailing of taxis and Uber rides, and exceeds the town’s authority because South Street is a state thoroughfare.
- The town’s denial of a liquor license extension for Cavanaugh’s proposed Gran Cantina Mexican restaurant.
It further alleges the mayor’s “immense animus” stems partly from another Cavanaugh lawsuit, against the Morristown Parking Authority and others over a disputed alleyway.
“You —ed with the wrong people,” Dougherty told Cavanaugh, according to the new filing.
On another occasion, the mayor allegedly threw one of Cavanaugh’s favorite maxims back at him, gloating in 2017: “Remember that saying you kept telling me all those years ago, that you can’t fight city hall? Have you learned that yet?”
Armington, who doubled as head of the town alcoholic beverage commission during a stint as council president, harbors a grudge against Cavanaugh from a prior development battle, the suit claims.
Town officials have said their actions responded to residents’ complaints about unruly late night behavior by patrons spilling from a downtown saturated with bars.
Cavanaugh seeks a jury trial, injunctions barring curfews and roadblocks, plus punitive and compensatory damages, and legal fees.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Ryder Ulon of Schenck, Price, Smith & King in Florham Park, declined to elaborate on the case.
“I think this complaint more than adequately speaks for itself,” Ulon said on Wednesday. “We are ready to move forward with our lawsuit.”