A civil action filed with the Hudson County Division of the New Jersey Superior Court on April 8 states that the amendment to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Ordinance passed earlier this year forcing liquor establishments to stop selling alcoholic beverages at 2 a.m. had no governmental purpose.
Prior to this amendment, which went into effect on March 1, liquor establishments were able to sell alcoholic beverages until 3 a.m.
"The law was on their side," said Ramiro Franco, president of the association and owner of La Corona de Espana, a bar and restaurant on the corner of 39th Street and Bergenline Avenue.
Franco said that once the suit was moved to Federal Court last month, the association realized that they had little chance of winning it.
"This is good news for the taxpayers of Union City who would have had to pay the legal fees to defend this suit," said Stack, who said last month that he would bring this lawsuit to Superior Court if he had to. "From day one I thought that this was a frivolous lawsuit."
A long battle
This amendment was originally introduced by the Board of Commissioners in December 2001. However, after a two-hour long public hearing, the board decided to table it. The ordinance was then reintroduced and passed in February.
The city's bars and restaurants were previously able to sell alcohol from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. The new amendment to the Alcohol Beverage Control ordinance went into effect on March 1.
According to the complaint filed by attorney Vincent LaPaglia, the public hearings for the amendment "revealed there was no justification for the proposed amendment and that it would have a severe and significant negative impact" to the bars and restaurants in the city.
"I hope the bar owners have accepted this change in ordinance, which is for the general good of the quality of life of Union City," said Stack. "I hope that the bar and restaurant owners will cooperate with me more now."
However, Franco said that the association is not ready to quiet down.
"We are totally completely against it," said Franco. "We think that the mayor is being anti-business."
He added, "We are still disappointed with the new ordinance. And we will continue to fight this in other ways."
Stack said that he thinks that the ordinance will ultimately be a positive change for the bar owners.
"In the long run, I believe that this ordinance will not hurt the bars; it will help them," said Stack.
Franco said that the association will look for more political ways to fight against the city.
"Politicians come and go, but businesses are here to stay," said Franco, adding that if his business closes, another business will open in the same location. "That is the difference," he said.
Is it working?
Whether or not the quality of life in Union City has improved since the earlier closing of the bars is a matter of opinion. However, Franco said that he hasn't seen much difference in the cleanliness of the city's streets or other quality of life issues.
"The mayor is going to have to look to other places for blame," said Franco, adding that if the quality of life does not improve, then it will prove that the bars were not to blame.
According to Police Chief Norman Bareis, in the past two months, since March 1, there has already been a decrease in calls for service during the hours of 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. Bareis said that he has compared the number of calls for service this year to last year's numbers.
However, no data has been released about calls for service one hour earlier, since the ordinance has been in place. Stack, who is also the director or public safety, said that these calls have not seen an increase.
Stack also sees a slight increase in quality of life.
"There has been somewhat of a difference, but it is going to take a little more time to evaluate that," said Stack, adding that he wants to re-evaluate the issue after the summer in mid-September.