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RED BANK: PAIR PRODS ACTION ON BROADWALK

tim-mcloone-032223-500x375-1229108Robinson Ale House owner Tim McLoone at Wednesday’s council session. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-9108919Red Bank’s Broadwalk dining plaza will return for at least a four-month run May 15, following informal agreement by the borough council Wednesday night.

The consensus arose after Mayor Billy Portman and Councilwoman Kate Triggiano goaded the reluctant majority bloc into an immediate decision.

kate-triggiano-020823-500x375-6976687Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, seen here in February, prodded the majority not to delay further. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

The pair, who constitute the minority on the divided, all-Democratic council, pushed the majority led by Councilmember Ed Zipprich to decide when the season would begin, how long it would last, and fees to be paid by restaurants.

Those businesses need to know so they can plan and make ready for the imminent outdoor dining season, Triggiano said.

Zipprich and Councilman Michael Ballard, however, said they wanted to hold off until the council’s next session, on April 12. They cited an information-gathering conference call with Bob Zuckerman, executive director of Red Bank RiverCenter, scheduled for Thursday, as a reason.

“I would appreciate if we’d circle back to this at our next meeting,” said Zipprich, who serves as the council’s liaison to the downtown business promotion agency. “There are a number of issues that we need to address.”

Earlier this month, Zuckerman outlined to the council a plan to address carryover issues from last year’s Broadwalk. It includes setting up an alcohol-free community dining tent to draw more weekday visitors; improved litter collection; and a bolstered calendar of events. But turning aside a Triggiano demand “to give businesses a head start” on a season then anticipated to begin May 5, the council punted on a decision.

At the most recent meeting, Zipprich said there were still “minor details that need to be hammered out.”

Portman and Triggiano, however, pressed the majority to make a decision.

“My concern is, once again, we are pushing this off to a point where the businesses are not going to have time to prepare,” Portman said. “I’m not sure what you want to discuss with Bob one-on-one that we can’t hash out right here.”

He said the length of the season and the fees appeared to be the only issues to resolve.

Ballard said he has concerns “about the giant tent,” among others.

Such details, though, are not the purview of the council, said Triggiano, who called the majority’s approach “sabotage by subcommittee.”

“He’s here right,” said Triggiano, referring to Zuckerman. “He’s right here, guys. Let’s get this done.”

Zuckerman, taking a seat at a mic, said he believed businesses “could live with” a proposal that the season run from Memorial Day through October 1.

Tim McLoone, owner of a restaurant chain that includes Robinson’s Ale House, said the situation was complicated by the fact that college students looking for summer work want jobs that start earlier in the season. He suggested a compromise of May 15.

Arguing for a season that extends through October, McLoone said that as word-of-mouth builds, visitor numbers rise.

“People find out that there is a Broadwalk,” he said. Additionally, “the best months of the year, as we know because we live around here, are usually September and October, so we’d like to have access to that.”

“September is the best month” for restaurants, said Zuckerman, because the weather is often “perfect” for outdoor dining.

Councilmember John Jackson suggested that the end date be set in mid-September, but that the matter be revisited before then for reconsideration.

“Some residents don’t want a six-month street fair,” he said.

Later, Triggiano called for a vote on a resolution to formalize the terms. That drew objections from Zipprich, who contended that a resolution not previously listed on the agenda would violate the council’s new bylaws.

Later, after an informal approval, Portman said a resolution for formal adoption would be scheduled for April 12, “and hopefully we will cruise through that.”

Meantime, “you can start your preparations now,” Ballard told Zuckerman and McLoone.

Portman and Triggiano failed, however, to move the opposition on a RiverCenter request that fees for streateries outside the Broadwalk zone be rolled back to 2021 levels. Following an increase in streatery fees last year, no restaurants took advantage of the street-dining option, following two years of participation.

Prior to the vote, during public comments, council candidate Erin Fleming of River Road pressed the council to address concerns of East Side residents. Though many support Broadwalk, “seven days a week from May to October is just too much for us,” she said.

Council candidate Sean Murphy said via Zoom that action is needed to help Cardner’s barber shop, on Mechanic Street near Broad Street. The closure of upper Broad to vehicular traffic for Broadwalk makes access to the shop all but impossible, and is “killing” the century-old business, Murphy said.

“They get shut down during this whole thing,” he said, noting that other businesses are similarly impacted. “Somewhere, we need to find the fairness.”

Fleming and Murphy are on running with Ballard and Jackson in the May 9 election on the Red Bank Together slate, topped by mayoral candidate Tim Hogan. Portman and Triggiano, who won leadership of the local Democratic party from Zipprich last July, are seeking re-election on a slate called Red Bank’s Ready.

Red Bank’s Ready candidates Laura Jannone and Ben Forest also voiced support for an extended Broadwalk season.

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