Last Monday, at the first regularly scheduled town council meeting of the new year, featuring new council members Adela Martinez and Efrain Velez, the council officially introduced an ordinance that will cut the closing time at township bars, restaurants and drinking establishments from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Delle Donna had vowed he would introduce the legislation as soon as possible, and did so at the first available meeting.
"I think this is the best and easiest way to combat the problems we've had at our bars and taverns," Delle Donna said. "There are many things we could have tried, but closing at 2 a.m. is the best solution."
While there were no members of the public at the meeting Monday to voice their opinion about the ordinance, residents can offer their comments at the next council meeting, scheduled for Jan. 26, when a public hearing is slated before the council votes on adopting the ordinance at the same meeting.
"I'm happy to have the support of the entire council on this matter," Delle Donna said.
Delle Donna said that he sent out a letter to the owners of the town's 16 establishments that have liquor licenses to inform them of the impending change in closing time. Of the 16, four owners reached out to contact him.
"I explained to them that in the past year, we have not been efficient in cutting down on the random bar crimes and incidents," Delle Donna said. "We investigated to find out that many of the incidents took place after 1 or 2 a.m. We don't want to hurt businesses, but our first and foremost concern is to protect the peace and tranquility of the town."
Delle Donna said he felt sorry for the businesses that never cause problems or have incidents.
"It's unfortunate for those, because they never give us trouble," Delle Donna said. "But you can't have different times for those. The number of those who never give us trouble is shrinking. We really looked into this. It was not a rash decision."
Delle Donna said that the bar and tavern owners he spoke to were not pleased with the ordinance.
"Of course, they don't like it," Delle Donna said. "They wanted to know if there was a way we could have a compromise, like not letting new customers in after 2 a.m. But the police believe that such a rule would be a nightmare, because they couldn't monitor what's going on. It's time to change the closing time. It's not a cure-all, but it's another tool to combat the problems."
Delle Donna pushed for the change in closing time after a November incident that apparently began in a Bergenline Avenue bar after hours escalated to two men being stabbed in West New York, one critically. The apprehended actors, who were underage, told West New York police that they were drinking in Guttenberg prior to the stabbing incidents.
"We've been trying to crack down on the problems in the bars and taverns for the last three years," Delle Donna said. "The ones who gave us trouble have been curtailed. But this gives us another tool."
Several of the town's bar owners contacted for this story refused to comment.
One, who requested anonymity, said that he would abide by the new rule if it is passed.
"I don't like it," said the owner of a Bergenline Avenue establishment. "I don't think it's necessary. I never have problems here. It's only for the local customers who want to stay until closing time. I don't like it at all, because it's going to hurt my business, but if it happens, what can I do? I have to go along with it."
Delle Donna thinks that the time has come for the state to implement a uniform closing time, not leaving it up to each municipality. In Hudson County, Guttenberg would now be on the same closing time schedule as neighboring West New York, Union City and Weehawken.
Other Hudson County municipalities, like Jersey City, North Bergen and Hoboken close at 3 a.m.
"I really believe the state should come up with a uniform time for all to close," Delle Donna said. "Whatever time they determine is fair, then we would live by it."