Business Owners Oppose City Proposal To Curtail Late-Night Operating Hours
Wednesday, October 3, 2012 • 9:33am
PATERSON, NJ – More than 100 representatives from Paterson’s small business community packed the City Council chambers Tuesday night, convincing officials to delay their proposal that would force stores and restaurants in residential areas to close by midnight.
Officials are considering curtailing late-night business hours to try to address the crime and other problems they say tend to happen around such establishments. But the business owners and their advocates who attended the council’s workshop meeting at City Hall said the proposal is misguided.
The council decided to hold a special meeting on October 15 about the issue.
“There is no correlation actually between business hours and crime,’’ said Maria Teresa Feliciano, who said she’s a member of the Latin Merchants Association of New Jersey.
Angela Latifi, whose mother owns Crown Fried Chicken at Park and Madison avenues, said her family’s business stays open until daylight, partly because it’s not safe to leave the area with money in the dark. “I work every night,’’ Latifi said. “I see a lot. I believe that closing the businesses is going to make it worse.’’
But some Paterson residents at the meeting urged the council to move ahead with its plan.
“The majority of the businesses don’t live in the city,’’ said city activist Wahaada Muhammed. “They don’t know the pain we suffer.’’
“At a certain time we have to shut the city down to save our children’s lives,’’ said resident Clarence Chambers.
The proposed closing hours would be 11 pm on weeknights and midnight on weekends.
Among the businesses that would be exempt from the proposed law are factories, warehouses, medical facilities, hotels, rooming houses, cleaning companies and gas stations, which would be allowed to sell fuel after hours but not food and other items at a mini-mart.
Exemptions would be available for businesses that are not near any homes. Businesses seeking an exemption would have to obtain a “late operations certificate” from the city, under the proposal.
Councilman Rigo Rodriguez has been the primary opponent of the proposal. “This is just going to darken our city,’’ Rodriguez said. “That’s the problem.’’
But other council members asserted that the initiative stems from the rowdy and sometimes violent behavior they say the late-night businesses tend to attract. “This came out of a public outcry,’’ said McKoy.
“We’re living in a different city,’’ said Council President Anthony Davis about the changes that have happened in Paterson over the years. “Young people are running rampant.’’
“The real issue here is enforcement,’’ said Councilman Andre Sayegh.
Davis said businesses need to be more “mindful” about crowds hanging around their storefronts late at night. But Rodriguez said that merchants would put themselves at risk if they tried to chase such groups away.
Officials agreed that city police should play a greater role in dispersing crowds of young people hanging around on the streets at late hours.
“Business owners are most interested in collaboration with the police in the city,’’ said Ramon Duran, owner of a meat market who said he was president of the Latin Merchants Association. “We want to make safer streets and neighborhoods.’’