Hookah and vape lounges — along with a number of other new commercial uses — will now be permitted in South Orange Village Center after the South Orange Village Board of Trustees voted 4-3 to approve changes to the business code on Monday, August 13.
The changes were the result of a multi-year effort to review and revise the town’s business code, led by the South Orange Village Center Alliance. and its code review task force. SOVCA Executive Director Bob Zuckerman noted in the latest edition of the Village Vibe email newsletter, “This new ordinance brings this part of our municipal code into the 21st century and will be a big help to us in our business recruitment efforts.”
“These changes are just a tool that allow us to go out and potentially recruit those types of businesses,” Zuckerman told the Board of Trustees upon introduction of the ordinance (2018-15) back on June 11. “In no way does it mandate that we will have an arcade or other uses or pet grooming on South Orange Avenue. It gives us more flexibility in this new age of retail — post Amazon — to recruit businesses and have a great retail mix.”
Other new uses include ground floor locations for realtors, co-working spaces, sip and paint uses, and pet grooming.
The hookah/vape question was the most controversial part of the ordinance. One member of the public told the Board of Trustees, “Vape scares me… I don’t think that we need that in our town.”
Dr. Gary Goldberg told the Trustees, “I think vaping and the use of hookah will encourage addiction. My feeling about tobacco is that I don’t think it should be encouraged… and as a resident of South Orange these type of uses are not what I want to see in South Orange.”
Trustee Schnall reported that the code review process was “exhaustive.” He noted that there had been debate on many uses including financial institutions and real estate offices.
Schnall said the task force tried to be “more inclusive where possible” and argued that vaping and hookah lounges would be highly regulated by the state of New Jersey. “This is going to be very helpful to us to recruit businesses,” said Schnall, who reported that the next stage in the process would be creating a “How to do Business in South Orange” manual.
“In my opinion, those are special occasion events,” said Schnall, referring to vape and hookah lounges. “There are other parallels [such as] alcohol usage. My thought around hookah and vape … I don’t think it is going to be something that is going to be a regular daily basis.” He called both versions of the ordinance well-thought out and said he was in favor of the more inclusive version.
Trustees Karen Hilton, Mark Rosner and Deborah Davis-Ford voted against the inclusion of hookah and vaping in the ordinance. Trustees Howard Levison, Walter Clarke and Steve Schnall voted in support of hookah and vape lounge uses. Village President Sheena Collum broke the tie. Collum noted that Hilton, Rosner and Davis-Ford were in support of the other business code changes presented and only objected to vape and hookah lounges.