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FAIR HAVEN: HALFACRE JOINS BEER DEALERS

mike halfacre 2007Former Fair Haven mayor Mike Halfacre, who left his job of three years as head of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control division to join a law firm last May, is changing jobs again. He’s just been hired as executive director of the Beer Wholesalers Association of New Jersey. He’ll continue as “of counsel” to the Newark law firm of Genova Burns, working on select matters, he tells redbankgreen. (Archive photo from 2007. Click to enlarge)

FAIR HAVEN: HALFACRE QUITS ABC

halfacre-1-01-08Mike Halfacre in 2008. (Click to enlarge)

[Update: On June 30, 2015, the Newark law firm Genova Burns announced that Halfacre was joining it as counsel, doing work on commercial real estate and business transactions, and would be “available for consultation” to the firm’s craft beer, spirits and alcohol practice.]

By JOHN T. WARD

Former Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre has quit his job as head of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, redbankgreen has confirmed.

Halfacre told redbankgreen that he will leave the agency – the unit of the Attorney General’s office that regulates liquor licenses – effective June 30 to return to the practice of law.

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RED BANK: BOONDOCKS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

071014 boondocks news2Eyewitness News anchor Lauren Glassberg interviews Boondocks diners  – including Sugarush owner Chris Paseka, at right.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumBack from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, Red Bank’s five-year-old Boondocks Fishery is about to get a bit of metro-area exposure.

An ABC Eyewitness News crew led by anchor Lauren Glassberg paid a visit Thursday for a segment on a Boondocks perennial favorite: Spicy Seafood Gumbo..

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RED BANK: FIXX GETS 20-DAY SHUTDOWN

fixx 102113The settlement of charges calls for the West Front Street bar to meet a list of conditions involving security. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Red Bank nightclub Fixx, the scene of two sprawling street melees earlier this year, will close for 20 days next month under a deal approved by the borough council Wednesday night.

When it reopens, on or after January 21, the West Front Street bar will have to beef up security, report monthly to the police chief and hand over a list of the names of banned or ejected patrons, among other measures, Mayor Pasquale Menna said shortly before the council unanimously approved the deal.

“This demonstrates the seriousness, the severity and, pardon the pun, the sobriety with which the council is looking at this,” Menna said.

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RED BANK: LUCKY BREAK BILLIARDS TO REOPEN

lucky break 102113Lucky Break was closed for more than two months as the owner struggled to find a way out of red tape over BYOB rules.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Lucky Break Billiards, the Red Bank pool hall that shut itself down after becoming entangled in bureaucratic red tape over beer and wine consumption, will reopen Thursday.

Hall owner James Hertler tells redbankgreen he got the green light to reopen Wednesday from Mayor Pasquale Menna.

“The gist of it was that there was no complaint” by anyone that Hertler could challenge in court, Hertler said Menna told him. “My takeaway was that we’re good to go.”

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RED BANK: LUCKY BREAK’S SHATTERED DREAM

lucky break 102913James Hertler, below, shut down Lucky Break Billiards in September, a month after police cracked down over BYOB issues. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

james hertler 101813How’s this for an auspicious start for a business?

• In early 2011, in an effort to spice up nightlife, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna spearheads a zoning law change to allow billiards parlors and other entertainment-based businesses to operate downtown.

• Several months later, former Mayor Ed McKenna, as lawyer on a lease for a planned billiards parlor, calls now-deceased police Chief Steve McCarthy to confirm that it could operate as a bring-your-own-beer and wine establishment. McKenna gets an OK, he tells his client, James Hertler, who was in McKenna’s office during the call.

• That October, Hertler goes before the zoning board and wins quick, unanimous approval of his plan for Lucky Break Billiards. Throughout its lengthy resolution of approval, the board notes that Lucky Break will be a BYOB that serves coffee and microwavable snacks and will allow its customers to bring in food from nearby restaurants.

• The following March, Hertler and partner Jeff Regen open Lucky Break at 14 West Front Street, in a space that had been vacant for four years.

• Lucky Break toughs it out for the next 18 months, building a repeat clientele largely based on private parties and edging toward profitability.

• Though it’s located amid a busy cluster of bars, there’s not a single incident requiring a police response at Lucky Break. “We worked hard to be a good neighbor,” said Hertler, a borough resident.

Yet without any change in the pattern described above, guess who abruptly finds himself accused of violating liquor laws – and out of business?

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RED BANK: TRIAL ON FIXX LICENSE SLATED

fixx-ext-082411Fixx faces a possible 40-day suspension for two recent brawls. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank’s governing body is scheduled to decide next month whether to suspend the liquor license of the nightclub Fixx for up to 40 days for two recent closing-time melees, Mayor Pasquale Menna announced Wednesday night.

In addition, the borough was planning to notify the West Front Street bar’s owners on Thursday that they owe the town $33,000 for a tardy response to a fire code violation earlier this year, Administrator Stanley Sickels told redbankgreen.

Because the council will act as the equivalent of a jury at a hearing on alleged violations of state Alcohol and Beverage Control laws relating to brawls on September 22 and October 6, Menna and borough Attorney Dan O’Hern advised council members not to comment on the case.

But that didn’t stop neighbor Tony Busch Sr. from teeing up the bar, which has been the scene of two wide-ranging brawls in the past month. The most recent, early Sunday morning, required 25 cops from towns as far away as Keyport and  Long Branch, as well as eight Red Bank cops, to quell.

“What’s going on here is tantamount to a terrorist attack,” said Busch, one of five homeowners living above the Work Out World gym next door to Fixx. “This is getting worse by the day. And it’s very tough for the town, because we’re not set up for a terrorist attack.”

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RED BANK: MORE BRAWLS AT FIXX

rb fixx 100613Eatontown police joined cops from as far away as Keyport and Long Branch in backing up Red Bank’s response to the melee at Fixx. (Reader photo. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

AUTHORITIES_RB2For the second time in two weeks, Red Bank nightclub Fixx was the source of a sprawling melee early Sunday, one that required the help of cops from as far away as Keyport and Long Branch to get under control, police said.

Fights that began inside the troubled West Front Street club spilled out into the street at about 1:30 a.m. and spread, said Captain Darren McConnell.

RBPD called in help from numerous northern Monmouth County towns, with about 25 officers from as far away as Keyport and Long Branch racing into town to help the Red Bank force quell the violence, he said.

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BIDDING THE MAYOR FAREWELL

It’s official, apparently, if the sign outside Fair Haven Borough Hall has the weight of officialdom. The expected resignation of Mike Halfacre as the borough’s mayor, that is, to take a job in the Christie Administration. But neither the borough administrator nor the clerk was available Wednesday morning to say if Halfacre had submitted a formal resignation, and Halfacre did not immediately respond to a request for comment. [Update, 10:35 a.m.: Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande confirms that Halfacre submitted his resignation letter Tuesday, effective immediately.] (Click to enlarge)

PRESS: HALFACRE NOW HAS CHRISTIE NOD

The mayor, seen below in his biking gear, was a no-show Monday night and his nameplate sat on a shelf behind the council dais. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

He’s yet to resign, but the Asbury Park Press says Fair Haven’s Mayor Mike Halfacre now has been formally named to a post in the Christie Administration that will require him to step down from his elected post.

Halfacre, who apparently jumped the gun last week by announcing his new job as head of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control on Facebook before his appointment was made official by the governor’s office, did not appear at Monday night’s meeting of the borough council.

Borough officials who appeared not to know of the latest Press report told redbankgreen on the condition of anonymity that Trenton had asked Halfacre to “lie low and not do anything mayoral” while his appointment was being finalized.

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PRESS BACKPEDALS ON NEW HALFACRE JOB

Original headline: “Fair Haven Mayor Michael Halfacre to head NJ Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control”

New one: “Fair Haven Mayor Michael Halfacre considered for Alcoholic Beverage Control post”

Uh-oh. Somebody might need a drink.

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FIXX BUYS TIME: 15 MINUTES FOR 90 DAYS

fixx-ext-082411Music at Fixx will be cut off at 1:30 a.m. for the next three months under a deal worked out with the borough council. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

With its liquor license on the line, Red Bank’s most problematic bar reached a temporary compromise with borough leaders Wednesday night that will give it time to prove it has gotten its chronic problems under control.

Mike Gilson, owner of Fixx on West Front Street, agreed to implement more than a dozen fixes he negotiated with police Chief Steve McCarthy over the past two months in an effort to reduce the need for police presence at closing time. Many of the changes, including beefed-up security Thursday through Saturday nights, have already been implemented, Gilson said.

But one change McCarthy insisted on led to a stalemate: he wanted Gilson to shut off the music at 1:15 a.m. in order to encourage a peaceable wind-down to a 2 a.m. closing. Gilson refused, saying it would kill his business.

“It seems like a small matter to the average person, but we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think that was a very, very important aspect of our ability to function in this economy,” Gilson’s lawyer, Rob Williams, told the council.

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RECEIVER STUBS OUT ASHES CIGAR CLUB

ashes2-071210A passerby peers into Ashes Cigar Club Monday night. (Click to enlarge)

The court-appointed receiver in a complex series of lawsuits over Ashes Cigar Club has shut down the Red Bank restaurant and nightclub and has no plans to reopen it, he tells redbankgreen.

It could take months to find a buyer, says attorney Bunce Atkinson, who stubbed out the last hope of rekindling the business on July 7, when he directed that it be closed for good. Information about the reasons for the shutdown were unavailable until this morning.

Meanwhile, two groups of investors who claim to have had stakes in the bar’s liquor license have been squeezed out, and the state is looking to impose fines over identities having been hidden from regulators, Atkinson says.

“There’s going to have to be a fine paid” to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control agency, he says.  “It’ll come out of the sale of the assets.” The former owners won’t see another dime from their investment, he says.

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