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RED BANK AIMS TO BAN OVERNIGHT BUSINESS

The unacknowledged elephant in the room: the Welsh Farms on East Front Street, now seeking to convert to an all-day 7-Eleven. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Without explaining the reason for its haste, the Red Bank Council introduced an ordinance change Thursday night to ban retail businesses from remaining open between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The law, an amendment to the town’s noise ordinance, would not apply to any business that now operates at those hours, said Mayor Pasquale Menna. Nor would it affect bars and restaurants.

Not a word was said, however, about its potential impact on the East Front Street Welsh Farms convenience store, which is in the midst of planning board hearings over cosmetic changes as it prepares to convert to a 7-Eleven and remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The measure was prompted, Menna said, by a neighborhood brouhaha over Best Liquors, a West Side packaged goods store that attracted so many complaints and legal run-ins that the council revoked its liquor license five years ago.

A recent review of police and code enforcement data by police Chief Steve McCarthy led to a recommendation that the town adopt a noise ordinance barring the operation of any business within 100 feet of a residential zone, excepting bars and restaurants, Menna said.

If any council members harbored any reservations about the amendment, they did not speak Thursday night. Councilman Mike DuPont called it “a very creative way to protect our neighborhoods. I think it’s a wonderful initiative.” Councilman Ed Zipprich said it offered “a good opportunity to protect the quality of life, to protect [neighbors] from a change, a dramatic change.”

“This is just a little bit of tweaking to that helps out our residents,” said Councilman Art Murphy.

The proposed change was not listed on the council’s agenda for the meeting, and no copies of its language, which Menna paraphrased, were available.

Afterward, Menna said there was no advance notice of the introduction because the language was still being drafted shortly before the meeting. Asked what the rush was, he replied, “Get it done now.”

Reminded that Best Liquors wasn’t open all night, Menna replied, “Yes, but it was open late.”

Pressed to address the impact on Welsh Farms, Menna said that if the store changes its hours to all-night before the law goes into effect, “they will be fine.”

He also acknowledged, as the store’s attorney maintains, that town officials did not limit the store’s hours of operation when they approved it as a convenience store and filling station in 1975.

The store has never operated all night, and now closes at 10 p.m.

A public hearing and vote on whether to adopt the amendment was scheduled for May 9. The planning board next meets on May 7, but it could not be immediately learned if the Welsh Farms hearings would resume that night.

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