Siding with a lower court and the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, a state appellate panel has upheld findings that alcohol curfews imposed by Morristown officials on the Revolution bar are arbitrary and capricious.
The judges found no evidence of “widespread public sentiment” for curbing liquor sales, nor did they find any record of violations by Revolution’s parent establishment, the Iron Bar.
Last month, the town council re-imposed conditions requiring Revolution to halt alcohol sales at 11 pm Sundays through Thursdays and at 11:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Other bars in town can serve alcohol until 2 am.
The stipulations date to 2016, as conditions for Iron Bar owner Jimmy Cavanaugh to expand the Iron Bar’s liquor license to include his new Revolution beer hall, next door on South Street. Each year, Cavanaugh has appealed these curfews to the state ABC, which has stayed them every time, most recently in June.
Council members have cited public complaints about rowdy late-night behavior by patrons leaving downtown bars.
But a state administrative court decision last year declared the council’s conditions to be arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and discriminatory.
In its appeal, Morristown argued that the lower court and ABC have usurped the town council’s authority over liquor licenses, and that the state ABC director violated New Jersey’s Administrative Procedure Act by voiding the special conditions.
The town further contended its rights to a fair hearing and due process were denied when the Office of Administrative Law took more than 45 days to issue its 2018 ruling. And Morristown accused Cavanaugh of misrepresenting Revolution–initially pitched as a jazz nightclub to be called the Iron Bistro.
Appellate Judges Carmen Messano, Douglas Fasciale and Greta Gooden Brown rejected those claims in their decision. Issued on July 19, 2019, it found “there was no nexus between the special condition and the alleged problems” with local bars.
Attorney Ryder Ulon represented the Iron Bar and Denis Francis Driscoll argued the case for the town, in a hearing on June 4.
The opinion is classified as “unpublished,” meaning it sets no legal precedent and is not binding on other courts.
Cavanaugh, who is suing Mayor Tim Dougherty and the town, said “the council is taking orders from Dougherty … spending tax dollars in this vendetta.”
“When the time comes and these players have to swear before God in federal court, the truth will prevail. For Dougherty, this is just a form of pay-to-play. He keeps his political allies, the attorneys, on the payroll, enriching them with fees charged to Morristown,” charged Cavanaugh, a former Essex County Freeholder.
Through an attorney, Dougherty has termed Cavanaugh’s accusations “wholly without merit.”
Town Attorney Vij Pawar and Assistant Town Attorney Elnardo Webster II did not respond to requests for comment about the appellate ruling.
“We are certainly disappointed,” Council President Toshiba Foster said of the ruling. The governing body will determine its next steps after a briefing by Pawar at its meeting on Aug. 6, 2019, Foster said.
Concerns persist about the downtown bar scene, she added.
“It is clear that the quality of life is an issue in the area, as evidenced by over 125 ordinance citations just in the last few weeks,” Foster said, asserting the citations were to individuals for offenses such as urinating in public and drinking in public.
“We will continue to work with our public safety director and administration and request continued diligence in addressing the late-night issues to protect the interests of our residents,” Foster said.