State appellate court sides with Iron Bar in Morristown curfew dispute

A battle over curfews at Revolution has reached the courts. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Revolution in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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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The opinion is classified as “unpublished,” meaning it sets no legal precedent and is not binding on other courts.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.”

Morristown Council President Toshiba Foster at meeting of July 16, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Great article by Linda Stamato in today’s star Ledger, July 28, politics Jersey Style, it deals with corruption below the surface.

  2. James Cavanaugh I am glad you won this decision. I didn’t even know about it and was always thinking about the Epstein driveway situation. You have enhanced the quality of life in Morristown and I commend you. My mother, Adele Greenberg, who passed away in June, would be proud that you are the new owner of the property.

  3. What is councilwoman Foster talking about, what are the concerns, my concern is the mismanagement of my beloved morristown, no other town in the state is behaving in this manner. Why are they blaming the bar restaurants that make morristown so popular, what do they prefer businesses that go broke, employees out of work. There is a serious mismanagement in Morristown and the politicians are trying to shift the blame to the bar restaurants, all for personnel reasons.

  4. Score one for the good guys! Morristown’s current administration’s brazen corruption and abuses of power are an absolute disgrace. The Council won’t even tell the public the amount of tax dollars spent on these endless, frivolous legal battles (which in all likelihood means the amount is astronomical). They also refuse to tell us what makes Iron Bar/Revolution any different from the other bars in town that would warrant differential treatment, further confirming their arbitrary, unreasonable and capricious conduct. A day of reckoning is coming, and the right and just will prevail. Keep fighting the good fight Jimmy!

  5. Define Harrassment: “..declared the council’s conditions to be arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and discriminatory.” Hopefully, this tax payer funded fishing expedition is now over.

  6. Trust me I totally understand. I am also a frequenter of bars around town. Iron Bar is a bit of a younger crowd for me, but I walk back that way and see what the town is doing. More cops are needed outside Laundromat and Grasshopper if anything. Spread it out more. These bars drive a lot of business in town. I never understood why Iron/Revolution are singled out. If it is just because they are the most popular, that is not a good enough reason to impose restrictions.

  7. Matt, think about this, the mayors closing South St to harass Revolution, 3 or 4 police cars taken away from patrol. Violations then take place in areas with no police presence. In the event something catastrophic takes place blame these people running the town, at the top of the list a high school dropout.

  8. My tenant or any of the businesses around us dont have any issues with RevolutionCouncilwoman Foster and the council should reveal where these violations are taking place, but they wont because they are happening at locations away from revolution. Put your restrictions on the ones who don’t have enough bathroom space for their customers.

  9. WHEN WILL THIS STOP. As a resident and taxpayer in Morristown, I no longer want my tax dollars pitching this case against Iron Bar/Revolution. Where are the big lawsuits and fines and whatever else for all the properties that are no abandoned like Pazzo Pazzo. Don’t fight a business that is clean, looks great and is an economic DRIVER for the downtown. Shame on Morristown council and mayor. Time for change..

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