In a decision handed down by Administrative Law Judge Edith Klinger and seconded by State ABC Director Jerry Fischer, the state found that "continued operation of the bar..." "...constitutes a threat to public peace and safety."
The bar has actually been closed for almost two years, ever since a September 2002 decision by the New Jersey State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control shut the doors in a surprisingly harsh decision.
An October 2002 Reporter article stated, "As part of Fischer's decision, the license is suspended for an "indefinite" term and is effective until Fischer orders otherwise."
Last week's decision effectively puts the final nail in the coffin of a business that had been part of the fabric of Union City for 25 years.
However, according to the lawyer representing Romy's and it's owner Romilda Pellito da Silva (known as "Romy"), an appeal will be filed.
"We can't say that the things within the decision didn't happen," said Alexander Locatelli of West New York, "but the punishment doesn't fit the crime. This, in 25 years of being there, is her first involvement with this kind of thing."
Added Locatelli, "There's lots of room for appeal here."
Because the latest decision was handed down from the state level, the appeal will have to go to the state courts. It is effectively out of Union City's hands at this point.
According to Locatelli, the bar, in its 25 years of ownership under Pellito da Silva, has had only 10 infractions, "six of them paper infractions."
But the reason that Union City and consequently the state have come down so hard on the bar is an incident that occurred on April 28, 2002 wherein a shootout between bar patrons and Union City police officers resulted in the injury of two officers.
At the time, it was alleged by the Union City Police Department that the whole incident could have been avoided if Pellito da Silva had called the police when the incident began. Said Director Fischer in October 2002, "As a result of the licensee's inaction, these incidents were allowed to escalate into matters that ultimately resulted in the injury of police officers."
According to state documents, Pellito da Silva "hindered a police investigation of the incident, a violation of N.J.A.C. 13:2-23.30."
According to the same documents, a fight occurred between a patron of the bar and a dancer who was performing there on the evening of April 27, 2002. The patron said something to the dancer, which allegedly caused her to slap his face. As he prepared to strike her back, two other patrons intervened on behalf of the dancer. They were told by the patron to "mind their own business." The crux of the state's case is that under oath, Pellito da Silva testified that she immediately took the dancer and the patron into the back to calm them down and told them to leave the premises immediately. However, upon cross-examination by investigators, Pellito da Silva stated that the patron stayed long enough to buy a round of drinks for everyone, according to the report.
The two men who intervened on behalf of the dancer claimed that they were attacked by four men outside of the bar after the patron left. One of the men recognized one of the attackers and knew he hung out at a delicatessen on Hague Street. When police approached the suspects, an automobile chase ensued through the streets of Union City and parts of Jersey City. The suspects fired shots at the police and the police returned fire.
This incident seems to illustrate how seemingly innocuous incidents at local bars can escalate.
Union City says that its new 2 a.m. closing at bars has helped. According to a press release, a statistical analysis of calls for service (CFS) by the Union City Detective Bureau showed an overall decrease of 20.7 percent between weekends in March 2002 through February 2003 over the same time frame in 2001-2002.
Said Stack in the release, "Many people doubted me when I said that closing the bars in Union City an hour earlier on weekends would certainly result in fewer calls for police service. Now the statistics show that the earlier closing time has made a positive impact on our quality of life."
However, some are wondering why a shooting that occurred outside of a bar has, in essence, resulted in the closing of a bar. Stack pushed hard to have Romy's closed for good. Said Stack in a telephone interview last week, "The bar was a problem for our police department on many occasions. It's been a problem for as long as I can remember. This has been a problem establishment and I think it's a good thing for the people of Union City that it is closed."
With the promise of an appeal by the lawyer for Romy's, this story is certainly not over yet.