Morristown shuts down Tashmoo beer garden

Photos shared on Beer garden behind the Woman's Club of Morristown, June 19, 2020. Photo courtesy of Morristown.NJ Instagram.
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By Louise Witt

Hours after the owner of the Tashmoo Restaurant & Bar reassured Morristown’s business administrator Friday night that health safety precautions were in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, more than a hundred patrons, many without masks, crowded into an outdoor area with a live band.

After neighbors of the Dehart Street bar posted photos and comments on social media of what looked like a beer garden in the parking lot behind the Woman’s Club of Morristown, the town shut down the establishment around 9 p.m. and revoked its approval for outdoor expansion.

Jillian Barrick, the town’s business administrator, told MorristownGreen.com that she had spent much of Friday going over details of Tashmoo’s expansion plan with Billy Walsh, the bar’s owner.

Even so, Tashmoo’s managers did not comply with the agreed upon plan, according to Barrick.

“I would say I was disappointed,” Barrick said. “I wanted to work with him to make the plan a success like any other business in town. But we can’t have violations of the governor’s executive order.

“There were so many people without masks and they weren’t social distancing. It’s not safe for the patrons nor the residents of our town.”

Members of the Walsh family who oversee the family’s restaurants and bars in town didn’t immediately return calls asking for comment.

“Happy with the reopening, but this makes me nervous, should be smaller crowd, more social distancing and more masks,” one person posted on Instagram, commenting on the crowded scene at the outdoor bar. “Do we really want to go back to where we were?”

Barrick said Walsh assured her Friday the bar would comply with the governor’s executive order setting out guidelines on how bars and restaurants could safely open outdoor areas during the pandemic.

The administrator wanted to make sure Tashmoo didn’t violate health safety precautions like it did Thursday evening with patrons not following social-distancing protocols and not wearing protective masks.

As part of the state’s Stage 2 reopening guidelines, Barrick reviewed Tashmoo’s plan with Walsh to space dining tables six feet apart, only offer table service, limit the capacity to 100 customers, provide employees with masks, as well as other health safety measures.

Tashmoo’s application also made no mention of live music, she said.

Barrick said Walsh was at Tashmoo, when she left around 5 p.m. Friday. She didn’t know why he didn’t make sure employees adhered to those plans later that evening.

“I don’t know what his intentions were,” she said. “He didn’t want to anger the neighbors and he wanted to follow the rules and comply with the executive order, but clearly that didn’t happen.”

Robert Iannaccone, council member representing the First Ward, where Tashoo is located, said he asked the town administration to review all expansion applications.

Tashmoo’s application was the only one he hadn’t received. Iannaccone said at a recent council meeting that he also requested outdoor bars and restaurants aren’t allowed to have live music.

“Jillian is working with the restaurants and bars and she has done a very good job,” he said. “I don’t know what happened. This [application] would have been flagged.”
Barrick said she didn’t have a chance to give the council members a copy, since she was working with Walsh right up until the bar opened Friday night.

In the last two weeks, Barrick said she has reviewed and approved dozens are applications from operators of bars and restaurants who want to set up outdoor facilities.

Iannaccone said Tashmoo’s neighbors didn’t complain about the bar’s noise. Instead, residents were concerned about patrons not practicing social distancing and not wearing masks.

“Community Place people are very tolerant,” he said. “Everyone wasn’t to help where they can help. There’s a sense of community and they are more than happy with work with business.”

On Saturday, the town reissued its guidelines in accordance with Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 150. Barrick said the town clarified that capacity of the outdoor establishments won’t exceed capacity of their indoor bars and restaurants.

The town also emphasized that servers must provide patrons with table service.
Barrick said the town clarified that capacity of the outdoor establishments won’t exceed capacity of their indoor bars and restaurants.

“We want all of Morristown’s businesses to succeed into the future and will continue to do our best to support those efforts,” the statement said.

“But we must ensure the safety and welfare of our residents and visitors first and will not tolerate any business that does not work with us to achieve that goal.”

After the town shut down Tashmoo, Karen Ann Kurlander, first vice president of the Woman’s Club of Morristown, said her board called an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss the incident. The club is renting the parking lot to the bar on a week-to-week basis.

“We held an emergency board meeting to figure out what’s going on and how to work with the town,” she said. “We wanted everyone on the board to know the facts of what happened this week.”

A Walsh representative assured the board that Tashmoo would be able to meet the town’s more specific guidelines, Kurlander said. The original ones were vague.

She also said the club’s president was present at the outdoor bar Friday night and observed employees turning away customers to ensure the area wasn’t crowded.

The board also reviewed drone footage posted on Instagram showing that most patrons were social distanced in small groups around the parking lot. While many weren’t wearing masks, that’s not a requirement.

Customers are asked to wear masks before they are seated, but can take them off to eat and drink.

“It would be extremely hard to eat a hamburger with a mask on,” Kurlander said.

The Woman’s Club decided to rent its parking lot to Tashmoo to raise funds for its charities. Due to the pandemic, the organization had to cancel its spring luncheon, its flea market and its rummage sale and its highly likely it will have to cancel its holiday bazaar.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Do I sense a bit of jealousy for people that are successful motown bartender and others that have been putting a very nice family down. If you feel unsafe outside, stay home. We live in a free country and it’s getting a bit crazy out there. People do have to take responsibility for themselves at some point. Imagine living in a bubble forever. If some have their way, we will never get out of this nightmare.

  2. Margret – for the 50th time, I lived in town for 5 years now and lived 15 min away my entire life. It is you (and Charles) who refuse to believe it. That is not my problem.

    Are you also going to answer the question what if the government told you to never come out of your house again in order to keep you “safe” from the outside world. Would you support that? Yes or no. Brow beating people under the safety issue isn’t a good answer.

  3. Continue to find it interesting that many who make anti Morristown and pro violating rules designed to protect everyones health, rarely let us know their last name or where they are from.

  4. Spoke to the women’s club today, they informed me the so-called representative who spoke out against Iron Bar was not authorized to do so. He has since been let go. Good riddance. He was more then likely put up by a council member. My thanks to the women’s club who does so much for Morristown.

  5. lol @ Charles. Now I am a science denier and short term thinking dolt.

    Its called being free Charles. Freedom is exponentially more important than being kept “safe” from the government. If the government told you to never come out of your house again would you hold the same position? At what point do you say enough is enough? Your brow beating isn’t going to work here.

    And I certainly know how much you hate doing econ. Did you have enough time to think about why you can’t decide who pays what rent for others buildings yet or still need more time on that one?

  6. It’s ironic that an employee of the women’s club attended every renewal of the iron bar, Revolution license renewal and opposed our 60 seat Mexican restaurant and license renewal We know he was put up to it by the administration. Where is he now ? Connect the dots.

  7. “It’s called the Free Covid-19 Super Spreader Market and it’s an American Tradition, didn’tcha know”

    People out here showing their whole asses as science deniers and “some people have to die for important businesses like entertainment and drinking venues for out-of-towners and other low-margin businesses that rely on tax breaks and free policing to make a buck”.

    Simple grade-school science reminder for these dolts:

    – The masks are not to protect the wearer, they are to protect others
    – Numerous studies show asymptomatic people can spread the virus very efficiently
    – When worn, masks are exponentially more protection than no mask

    And I hate to do basic econ with the brain-geniuses here, but even I know that the econ impact of doing this right once is way lower than doing it wrong over the next year and a half… but lots of the Connor types are short-term thinkers who can’t see beyond this week’s buck. So sad…

  8. @Kieran – do you really think businesses should be permanently shut down for a first time offense implementing brand new and evolving rules and regulations during a once in a lifetime pandemic? If you’re telling me Tashmoo (or any business) purposefully and frequently flaunts rules that at least intend to keep people healthy I’m all ears, but we’re talking about one day.

    You may personally think there’s “enough” bars & restaurants in Morristown but the completely packed beer garden would suggest otherwise. It’s called the free market and it’s kind of a big deal here in America.

  9. Wait a minute? Billy Walsh owns tashmoo? Check all of your records. The Walsh family have been operating illegally for years with multiple licenses. Anyone who would like to check can look at the ABC handbook. They are a joke and making our town a laughing stock. First with horseshoe opening up before restaurants were allowed and now this! Please as Motown residents we need to stop this family from breaking laws.

  10. At risk ? How about peoples rights being at risk? I’ll bet if you owned a restaurant you be really upset at this point. Must be nice never having to worry about money.

  11. I live at 49 Market Street and share the Dehart Street parking garage. When I left it was obvious that the patrons were ignoring both social distancing and few were wearing masks. They were on the sidewalks drinks in hand in small to midsize groups. It was frightening.. Later the garage was again filled with people with no masks

  12. I’m pretty sure everyone has read this entire article. People, there was enough space for everyone to distance. The time was great and I can’t wait for it to reopen

  13. Clearly there is little or no oversight by the incompetent management at Tashmoo in implementing the towns guidelines for Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order 150. If they put the both the patrons of the establishment and the public at “risK”, then revoke their license and shut them down permanently.
    Morristown already has enough bars and restaurants to satisfy most residents needs for such services. In the end it all comes down to one thing…MONEY!

  14. What is going on in this world..? If you don’t feel safe then STAY HOME. Simple. As. That. Stop making it so hard for other people to want to enjoy what Morristown has to offer and for businesses to try to thrive in a world that we’re living in today. People really have nothing else to do but complain about anything and everything. This virus is going to be around forever, has it really come down to this? Come on people, wake up.

  15. Clearly there is little or no oversight by the incompetent management at Tashmoo in implementing the towns guidelines for Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order 150. If they put the both the patrons of the establishment and the public at “risK” then revoke their license and shut them down permanently.
    Morristown already has enough bars and restaurants to satisfy most residents needs for such services. In the end it all comes down to one thing…MONEY!

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