The Maplewood Township Committee, acting as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), opened the door last week to the possibility of St. James’s Gate Publick House serving food and drinks at an outdoor cafe.
At the hearing on Tuesday, the TC voted 3-2 to approve a resolution to allow the pub to expand with an eight-seat outdoor, sidewalk cafe in front of the restaurant. TC members Marlon K. Brownlee and India Larrier opposed the measure.
The resolution would enable the owners — American Irish Pub Concept, run by the Meade family — to have four non-smoking tables along with umbrellas. Food and alcoholic beverages would be served until a “last call” at 10 p.m., to ensure compliance with the township’s noise ordinance that prohibits outdoor dining past 11 p.m. (The indoor portion of the restaurant would remain open until 2 a.m. on weekends.)
See the full resolution attached below as a PDF.
However, township attorney Roger Desiderio stressed that the resolution is “contingent on the issuing of an outdoor café license” — which cannot take place until the issue of whether the sidewalk in front of the pub is owned by the township or by the building owner.
Meade said an outdoor cafe has been a part of his business plan for a while, but that his landlord, Glenn Sussman, had previously nixed the idea. “I’ve made an effort to do it before, but the owner refused to sign the application,” said Meade, who was represented in the hearing by an attorney.
Now, the application has been revised after a new engineering survey appeared to indicate that the sidewalk is under town ownership, which means the landlord’s approval would not be required.
Sussman has asked for another survey, which is currently taking place.
Sussman was not at the hearing, but his attorney Mark Tolstoi called the decision “premature” since no permit has yet been issued.
Tolstoi said Sussman objects to the cafe because he has “a fair amount of liability” if he owns the sidewalk. The attorney also noted that there might be noise complaints from tenants who live in the building.
TC member and Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams seemed skeptical of that assertion. Noting that the pub is already open until 2 a.m. on weekends, she asked, “What is the real objection?” Adams also pointed out that five other food establishments in the Village serve at outdoor cafes, including restaurants that are BYO (bring your own), and that to “handicap” Meade from doing the same because he has a liquor license “doesn’t seem fair.”
Mayor Vic DeLuca concurred, noting a recent New York Times real estate article about how outdoor dining added to a town’s appeal to home buyers. The article noted Red Bank, NJ, as an example. “It’s an amenity that we’ve been talking about in town for a very long time.” He said it would add “vitality” to the Village.
Meade alleged that Sussman’s main concern was financial; he said that previously, Sussman asked Meade for $3,000 a month (in addition to the current rent) to operate the sidewalk cafe. Meade said that number was eventually negotiated down to $800, but Sussman is now objecting to the idea entirely. “It’s all about money,” said Meade.
Tolstoi said he had not been aware of the financial discussions between the Meade family and Sussman, and he would speak to his client about it.
Brownlee asked how the TC could vote on the resolution before the issue of ownership was decided. “If [Sussman] owns it, isn’t it between the owner and tenant?” Brownlee asked. “I don’t see where it’s our role to intervene…I don’t really care what his rationale[(for asking for money] is, it’s his prerogative.”
Desiderio told Village Green that Township Administrator Joseph Manning will make the decision on who owns the land. If Manning determines that Sussman does, his consent is required for the permit.
If the township owns the land, Manning will need to determine if the application complies with the requirements. If so, then a permit can issued.