By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Here’s a problem merchants these days might like to have: a business so hopping that the parking lot can’t keep up with demand.
Recently-opened MJ’s Pizza Bar and Grill, on Route 35 north in Middletown, is having such a containment issue. A lack of available real estate isn’t deterring customers, but the parking spaces they’re finding have got neighbors of MJ’s all riled up.
Neighbors say bar patrons are using the area of nearby Rosewood and Melrose terraces as an alternative parking area, making noise late at night and using private driveways as U-turns to get back out onto the highway.
“There’s a major problem with my privacy and my neighbors’ privacy and traffic. You can’t even pull your car out to Route 35,” said Vito Nigro, of Melrose Terrace. “Roseland Terrace is like a parking lot.”
The problem occurs mainly at night, neighbors said. MJ’s, which opened about two months ago, is the latest business to occupy the roadside space, which has always been a hot spot for locals, resident Don Watson said.
“But never as bad as it is now,” said John Cuttrell, who’s lived in town 18 years.
Already a narrow street, the addition of cars lining both sides of Rosewood creates a safety hazard, and there have been a couple close calls where cars could have crashed head-on, Cuttrell said.
“It seems like one of those things just waiting to happen,” he said.
A group of residents urged the township committee to look for solutions to dissuade customers from parking in the area. Among the ideas were to make Roseland a one-way.
Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante said there are a number of possible solutions the town can look into, but the problem is getting all sides to agree on them.
“Well, that’s the trick,” he said. “One-way is an option, but some people are not going to agree on that.”
The police will study the area and submit a traffic study to the committee, Mayor Tony Fiore said.
This is the first time the problem has come to the town, he added.
Frank Gato, who lives on Rosewood, told the committee he’s seen cars parked from MJ’s, down 35 and onto Rosewood, and others in the residential area parked right up against stop signs, making them hard to see. A one-way street may not work, he said, but the township has to figure it out before somebody gets hurt.
“I know they have a business to run. We all understand that,” Gato said. “But it’s a safety issue.”
And if a solution is found, MJ’s might actually gain a customer or two.
“I’d even go there if they do something about,” Nigro said. “But I won’t go there. I refuse to.”