wfront-2The mayor says entertainment ventures could help fill empty storefronts. Above, two long-time vacant spaces on West Front Street. (Click to enlarge)

Citing a surplus of vacant storefronts and not enough for visitors to do after-hours, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna on Monday called for law changes to allow more nightlife attractions downtown.

Menna got the ball rolling on what he said would be a process to come up with zoning changes to allow such ventures as billiards parlors, small movie theaters, and places offering “digital entertainment” in the district.

“People say, ‘we love coming to Red Bank, but after we have dinner and drinks, we want to do more,'” he said.

Menna has long expressed frustration that so many stores close just as visitors are coming into town to dine, and his proposal seemed to signal a plan B for increasing after-hours foot traffic on Broad, Monmouth and West Front streets, among others.

“If stores are closed, you don’t give people a reason to stay,” he said. “We have to change with the times.”

Borough engineer Christine Ballard said commercial recreational facilities aren’t now permitted in any of the zones that cover the town center. The amendments could be written to make such activities a conditional use, meaning each one would have to first get planning board approval, she said.

Menna said the next step is for the creation of proposed design standards to specify what types of businesses would be allowed, size limitations and more.

He said he envisions establishments such as art galleries “that host a mix of dance and music, not honky-tonk,” and no arcades, he said.

“I want a jazz club,” Councilwoman Kathleen Horgan said. “Red Bank needs a jazz club.”