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BEST NIGHT’S SLEEP AFTER SHUTDOWN

“Blissfully quiet,” says one resident.

“It’s been so peaceful,” says another.

Those were two assessments of life at the corner of Leighton Avenue and Catherine Street yesterday, 24 hours after Red Bank officials shut down the controversial Best Liquors store for fire code violations.

Vacate

And yet, there was a lingering concern among residents that the recently elevated attention being paid by local officials to the store might vaporize after next Tueday’s election, and that proprietor Sunny Sharma might soon be back in business, attracting his usual noisy and messy clientele.

Here’s a rundown of recent events, according to Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels:

Last Friday at around 4:30p, the fire department responded to an alarm at Sharma’s store. There was no fire, but the alarm system was inoperative. A fire inspector issued an “imminent hazard” warning to Sharma, giving him 24 hours to get the system fixed.

By Tuesday, when the inspectors were able to return, the alarm panel hadn’t been replaced or repaired. An immediate order to vacate the premises was issued.

Yesterday, the store’s entrance remained locked, with a prominent notice shutdown notice taped to the front door.

redbankgreen was unable to locate Sharma for comment yesterday.

Krishna Tyler, who lives two doors away and has been vocal in calling for the store’s permanent shutdown, spotted Sharma while she spoke to us on the phone. She reported that a liquor delivery truck pulled up; Sharma emerged from the store and spoke briefly to the driver, and the truck departed without delivering anything.

Tyler wonders how long the peace will last. She noted that the borough council last week dispatched its attorney, Kenneth Pringle, to look into the possibility of the town either buying Sharma’s license from him and retiring it, or using other legal means to shut down the store, which faces pending municipal court citations for selling liquor to underaged buyers.

Borough officials “are working hard, trying to shut down this place,” Tyler said. “But this is like a technicality. I’m sure it’s not permanent. I’m just thinking this is going to go away once the election is over.”

Sickels, though, said the shutdown was not related to the borough’s exploration of shutdown options, and was instead triggered by the faulty alarm system.

He noted also that before Sharma can do the necessary work to repair the system, he must obtain a permit. No application for such a permit had been made as of midday yesterday, Sickels said.

Area residents are expected to question Police Chief Mark Fitzgerald about the Best Liquors situation next Wednesday, when he is scheduled to appear at a meeting of the Westside Community Group.

Also scheduled to appear is Gary Watson, acting director of the public works department. The meeting is to be at 8p 7p at the River Street Commons.

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