SB MAN SEEKS COURT INFLUENCE PROBE

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A former political opponent of soon-to-be-ex Sea Bright Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams has asked the Monmouth County Prosecutor to investigate the role the mayor may have played in a recent borough court matter that resulted in a local noise ordinance being invalidated, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

From the story:

Andrew Mencinsky, 41, of Ocean Avenue said he called the Prosecutor’s Office on Oct. 26, the day after he attended the Borough Council’s meeting to request the probe, because he contends the mayor should not have been in court while the judge was hearing noise complaints against the local restaurant that later hosted her pre-election party.

“I was very upset about it,” Mencinsky said Tuesday. “It didn’t sound like a position the mayor should be in. Somebody has to connect the dots.”

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PLANNING BOARD TO BUONA SERA: MANGIA

Buona_seraBuona Sera’s plan to expand into the space now used by Fins and Feathers was approved by the Planning Board earlier this week.

It doesn’t have a single parking space to offer its customers, but Buona Sera Ristorante has gotten a greenlight from borough planners for an expansion that will boost its capacity by 148 seats.

In lieu of parking, the restaurant at the corner of Maple Avenue and Monmouth Street will be required to make a one-time $70,000 contribution to the borough parking fund, said Planning and Zoning Director Donna Smith Barr.

The Planning Board gave unanimous approval to the restaurant’s expansion Monday, despite reservations by the Visual Improvement Committee of Red Bank RiverCenter, the downtown promotional entity.

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NEW OLIVE OILERY MAY POP YOUR PIMENTO

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By TOM CHESEK

Even if you don’t think of yourself as a frantic foodie, chances are excellent that you’re likely to reach for the olive oil any time you make some noise with the pots and pans, be it a dab from an 8-ounce bottle or a dousing from a Mama Leone-sized aluminum can.

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But before you pluck that pale Progresso off the supermarket shelf, you should be aware that there exists a whole international “olive underground” of connoisseurs out there; a network of enthusiasts whose knowledge of (and romance for) the salty Mediterranean fruit rivals the religious zeal of the most dedicated vineyard-hopping oenophile.

And as you might have guessed, Red Bank is ahead of the curve in bringing this oleaginous subculture to our suburban doorstep, with the debut of a shop that’s described by a co-owner as “a store unlike any other on the East Coast.”

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TREE & CONCERT KICK IT INTO GEAR

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“It,” of course, is the holiday season, which starts hereabouts on Friday evening, not long after the leftovers from Thanksgiving have begun to chill in the fridge.

This is one of Red Bank’s big events, drawing thousands of townspeople and visitors to the central business district for an event that RiverCenter secretary Michael Warmington describes as “absolutely magical:” the simultaneous lighting of all the holiday lights downtown as well as those on the big Christmas tree, followed by an open-air concert by Holiday Express.

As it was last year, the tree is in the Monmouth Street courtyard of the Dublin House, just around the corner from the site of the concert stage on Broad Street.

The weather forecast for Friday night is for clear and cold, with temps in the upper 20s. Prrfect!

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ALL FOAM: COUNCIL TO UNDO KEG LAW

A beer-keg registration ordinance adopted by Red Bank in May is on tap for revocation tonight, following a little-publicized rejection of the law by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control.

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The borough’s ordinance was similar to ones passed in Belmar, Freehold, Matawan and elsewhere in the state. It required liquor stores to permanently tag beer kegs and to keep information about customers who lease them. The aim was to reduce the incidence of underage drinking parties.

The ABC, however, saw the town-by-town approach as too piecemeal and unworkable.

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AZZOLINA STOPS & SHOPS FOR A STORE

Stop_shopGetting here is less of a circus for many customers, says Joe Azzolina Sr.

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Local supermarket magnate Joe Azzolina Sr. has purchased the Stop & Shop on Newman Springs Road in Shrewsbury and is reconfiguring it into another Food Circus Super Foodtown, much like the one he owns about half a mile away in Red Bank.

“Trying to get into Red Bank from (Route) 520 is like driving into hell,” the former state Assemblyman tells redbankgreen. Residents of Tinton Falls, Shrewsbury and Lincroft — as well as from Holmdel and Colts Neck — had asked him to open a store more convenient to where they live, he said.

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GUIDING IMMIGRANTS TO HEALTHY CHOICES

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Volunteers do what they can at St. Anthony of Padua to help keep the needy from going hungry. Twice a week, a food pantry at the church gives out bagfuls of food to dozens of families, many of them Hispanic immigrants.

But because the church isn’t equipped to handle and store much in the way of fresh food, much of what’s distributed is processed and in cans. Not the worst, but not the best, either.

“We give out a lot of food, but a lot of it is carbohydrates,” says volunteer Sandy Markiewicz. And in recent years, the church crew has noticed that “a lot of the people who come to us have a weight problem. And they’re kids are getting heavy, too,” she says.

There have been a couple of cases of clients developing Type-2 diabetes, a complication of obesity that can cause all sorts of ills in itself, from kidney disease to blindness.

Enter MariaJose Lodeiro.

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FINS, FEATHERS & FETTUCCINE ON THE MOVE

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The first 72 hours of 2008 will be busy ones for the critters at Fins and Feathers, a pet store at the corner of Monmouth Street and Maple Avenue.

They’ll be hopping, flying and skittering a couple of hundred yards west to their new digs on Monmouth, in the former home of the Victory Market.

“Me and my 700 kids,” says store owner Helen Davis, who also has five human kids, most of whom will be expected to lend a hand in the moving effort.

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CONDO BUILDER BUYS 26 BROAD FOR $3M

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The owner of the Metropolitan condo complex now under construction on Wallace Street has acquired the Broad Street home of Murphy Style Grill, redbankgreen has learned.

Onyx Equities, a real estate investment firm based in Woodbridge, completed the $3 million purchase of 26 Broad Street last month, according to Monmouth County property records. The deal was financed by a $2.25 million loan from Commerce Bank.

Michael Nevins, vice president of asset management at Onyx, said Onyx did not acquire the restaurant itself, which he said has a long-term lease for the space. Mario Medici, owner of Murphy Style Grill, declined comment on the sale.

The transaction comes at a frothy time for the central business district.

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BOOZE COPS: ‘NOT HERE TO GIVE WARNINGS’

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

If Middletown police have their way, underage drinkers won’t even think about buying beer in the township.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy,” says Sgt. Darren Schwedes, coordinator of an $8,000 state grant for the “Cops in Shops” program, which has covered the tab for an undercover operation in six liquor stores in the township that’s nabbed 12 suspects in the last four months.

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COP INJURED IN WEST FRONT STREET MELEE: ‘ONE OF THE WORST’ BRAWLS, POLICE SAY

A series of fistfights outside Chubby’s Waterside Cafe on West Front Street early Saturday morning escalated into a near riot, with Red Bank police calling in backups from seven nearby departments and one officer ending up injured, Capt. Steve McCarthy reported today.

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The incident began as dozens of young people began loitering outside the bar and its vicinity, many of them apparently not patrons of the club, which was hosting a hip hop music event, McCarthy said.

As clubgoers emerged from the bar, a number of fights broke out, some of them involving as many as 15 people, he said.

Police officers who attempted to break up the fights were set upon by people in the crowd, McCarthy said.

“They would try to stop one group from fighting and there’d be another group fighting,” he said. “It was constant for about half an hour or so.”

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BUILDER TO BUY DONOVAN’S FOR $5M

Donovans_1007_2Is it the end of the line for the last beachfront bar in New Jersey?

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

The owners of Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright have signed a contract to sell the oceanfront nightclub for $5 million, redbankgreen has learned.

Chris Bowler and Bob Phillips, two of the bar’s three principals, said the buyer is Stone Enterprises, a Toms River developer with properties in Ocean County and north Jersey.

The proposed sale means that another slice of prime oceanfront property may become inaccessible to the public, and a popular Jersey shore hangout will likely be demolished to make way for housing. Bowler and Phillips said the buyer told them it would seek to build a mixed use condominium project at the site.

“It will be interesting to see what the town allows,” Bowler said.

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CARVING OUT A NICHE MARKET

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Chris Covert is fond of the ‘goofball’ approach to art, bringing a loosey-goosey attitude to choosing his subjects and often settling on celebrities who tickle his funny button.

He likes stand-up comics, and will knock off a portrait of one if he or she is enough of a ‘goofball.’ If the comedian has a gig coming up at the Count Basie, after which Covert might get a chance to show his work to a star, all the better. That’s all it takes in the way of inspiration.

“I just do ’em because I’m a goofball,” says Covert, 32, who also makes sandwiches at Elsie’s Subs, owned by his “better half,” Tish, on Monmouth Street.

This time of year, Covert turns his eye to that annually favored medium of American carvers, the pumpkin. Working in a storage area behind Elsie’s, Covert creates highly detailed pumpkin portraits.

For those, though, any goofball or non-goofball will do as a subject, as long as somebody ponies up the fee Covert charges for such immortalization. He calls his operation Pimp My Pumpkin.

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IS THAT… WAYNE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES?

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We here at redbankgreen weren’t the only ones who did a double-take on opening last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine to page 39.

“Is that who we think it is in the full-page patient testimonial for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York?” we asked ourselves.

In fact it was, and is, Wayne Fisler, owner of Wayne’s Market on West Front Street.

Still, some of Fisler’s friends calling from around the country aren’t completely sure it’s him staring back at them from the magazine.

“A lot of people didn’t know it was me right away because I don’t have my glasses on,” Fisler tells us. “It makes me look like an old man.”

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A LESSON IN TASTE BUD EUPHORIA

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Last Friday, the 25 students of the West Side Christian Academy in Red Bank took a field trip to Eastmont Orchards in Colts Neck for some apple-picking.

Over the weekend, the apples they selected were transformed into more than a dozen succulent pies, strudels and cakes.

And Monday morning, the baked goods arrived at school with the children for the K-through-12 academy’s annual pie-tasting event.

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TUNA LAWSUIT NETS FOOD BANK WINDFALL

A lawsuit brought by a Tinton Falls man over mislabeled tuna fish has resulted in a cornucopia of canned foods for a Mercer County food bank, the Trenton Times reports today.

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Last month, Del Monte Foods shipped 33,000 pounds of food to the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank in Ewing as part of a settlement of a class-action suit brought by Nick DeBenedetto, the Times says.

Thew newspaper reports that DeBenedetto sued Del Monte instate Superior Court in Middlesex County last year…

after he bought a four-pack of StarKist tuna cans and discovered that the nutritional information on the outside plastic wrapping differed from the nutritional information he discovered on the can labels inside, according to Andrew R. Wolf, De Benedetto’s lawyer.

Wolf said DeBenedetto filed the suit because he’s interested in nutrition and was concerned about the labels, which had inconsistent figures for calories, fat, protein and cholesterol.

The nutrition label on the outside packaging gave lower amounts for all four categories than the inside labels.

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ON DECK: A TRADER JOE’S AND A GARAGE?

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It is perhaps the single most contentious issue in Red Bank: whether the downtown needs a parking garage.

Merchants, in general, say yes. They complain that a shortage of street and lot parking is choking their businesses and undermining broader efforts to capitalize on the town’s sterling reputation as a cultural and shopping destination.

Building a garage that significantly increases the number of parking slots in the central business district is the best thing Red Bank could do to preserve its stature among New Jersey downtowns and stave off threats from Pier Village in Long Branch and other emerging marketplaces, proponents say.

But many residents say no way to a parking deck — not if they have to pay for it with higher property taxes.

Efforts by the Democrat-controlled council to convert the borough-owned White Street lot to a parking deck attracted large, angry crowds in 2001 and 2005. The latter attempt called for a 570-car, $11.8 million structure. Both times, the idea was shelved.

The solution, many agree, is some form of public-private deal in which a developer carries the financial risk and the town gets both revenue and more slots.

Finally, a plan along those lines may be in the works. And it involves a high-profile retailer that has done this sort of thing before elsewhere.

redbankgreen has learned that representatives of Trader Joe’s, a wildly popular chain of specialty food stores with affordable prices, met with borough officials two weeks ago to explore the possibility of building a store with a parking deck above it on the White Street lot.

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‘FREE MONEY,’ DIM SUM & TWO-BUCK CHUCK

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So who or what is Trader Joe’s?

It’s a food store with rabid devotees that allows customers to taste anything and return anything, no questions asked. The only exception? Selections from the wine department, which carries ‘Two-Buck Chuck,’ the Charles Shaw wine it retails for between $1.99 and $3.49 a bottle.

Kathleen Purvis of the Charlotte Observer took on the ‘who is Joe’ question last month, shortly before the opening of a Trader Joe’s in Piper Glen, N.C.

“People who have shopped there are so excited, you’d think the shelves are stocked with free money,” she wrote. “People who haven’t shopped there have the puzzled looks of confused Airedales.”

Here are some excerpts from Purvis’ take on Trader Joe’s:

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NYT: ‘MR. BON JOVI’ DUCKING LAWSUIT Qs

The New York Times has picked up on the story of pop star Bon Jovi’s legal efforts to flush a cold caffeinated beverage called Mijovi.

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Bon Jovi contends that the Mijovi name and the marketing tagline “itsmilife” infringe on his brand.

The paper reports today that:

Mr. Bon Jovi faces an Oct. 31 deadline by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to formally oppose Mr. [Marcos] Carrington’s trademark. Mr. Bon Jovi has also threatened to sue.

Thus far, however, the singer and his lawyers seem to want nothing to do with the court of public opinion. Judging by the comments posted on redbankgreen after we linked to the original story in the Asbury Park Press in July, that’s no surprise. Nobody has yet written in to take his side.

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AUTHENTICITY, AND A PINT OR TWO

DubOut front, the open-air courtyard.

By LINDSAY SAKRAIDA

Early one morning a while back, Dublin House co-owner Sean Dunne walked into the “eerie” empty bar to check on construction work underway on the second floor. But when he went to open a locked door to let in more light, he realized he’d left his keys downstairs.

After retrieving them, Dunne returned to find the door mysteriously now open. The puckish work of an old tenant, he says — no matter that this former tenant has been dead for decades.

“Mrs. Patterson’s ghost is still in the house, and it has been proven by a clairvoyant,” Dunne declares. “They have confirmed her presence.

“Now when I come into the house in the morn, I say ‘Good morning Mrs. Patterson.’ The construction ruffled her feathers a little bit.”

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BECK: STATE TOO SLOW ON BEST LIQUORS

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Twelfth-district state Assemblywoman and Red Bank resident Jennifer Beck has asked Attorney General Anne Milgram to speed up the scheduled hearing on whether the borough can shut down Best Liquors over a series of sales infractions.

“March of 2008 is entirely too long for the Borough of Red Bank to wait to see if the revocation of Best Liquors’ liquor license is upheld,” Beck says in a press release that announces a letter she sent to the AG. “Red Bank’s quality of life continues to suffer as Best Liquors has been permitted to stay open pending the outcome of their appeal.”

Here’s the letter: Download BeckMilgram83007.

It’s also addressed to Jerry Fischer, director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control division, the agency that this week set a March 5, 2008 hearing date on the appeal by Best Liquors to halt the shutdown.

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IS McLOONE ‘THE VOICE OF NEW JERSEY?’

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Musician, sports commentator, restaurateur and marathon man Tim McLoone is featured in today’s New York Times, which calls him “the voice of New Jersey.”

Now, before any Sinatra, Springsteen and Jon Bovi fans blow an artery, it’s not meant to be a serious claim. Instead, the story is a riff on McLoone’s near-ubiquity, whether playing with either of his two bands — Holiday Express and the Shirleys — some 150 nights a year, or working as an announcer at basketball games and marathons.

From the story:

You can hear his dulcet tones in venues as cavernous as the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford and as cozy as a bar at the Jersey Shore. Or outdoors at a band shell at the beach or on the grass at Monmouth Park, between horse races.

The Eastern goldfinch might be the state bird, but Mr. McLoone, who lives in Little Silver with his wife and four children, is doing much of the singing in the Garden State.

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SHARMA CASE PUT OFF UNTIL MARCH

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Red Bank’s effort to shut down Best Liquors on Leighton Avenue won’t go before an administrative law judge until March 5, nine months after the Borough Council voted to yank the store’s license.

Borough Attorney Tom Hall got word of the scheduling from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control division by letter yesterday, he tells redbankgreen.

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DWI CRACKDOWN INCLUDES CHECK TONIGHT

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Red Bank Police will man a DWI spot-check on Newman Springs Road beginning at 11p tonight, the department says in a press release.

The sobriety checkpoint will stay up until 3a.

Extra patrols will also be on the lookout for drunk drivers as part of an end-of-summer two-week crackdown announced last week by state Attorney General Anne Milgram.

The effort is part of a national push dubbed “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” in which the state provided $5,000 grants to 186 New Jersey municipalities to be on the lookout for any driver who might have a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher.

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