The needler in the haystack.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Denial of liquor license renewal up for vote tonight

Maybe the city should declare the site 'in need of redevelopment'?

Plainfield City Council has a number of important actions up for a vote tonight, but the vote to deny renewal of the liquor license for the Clinton Deli/Arlington Liquors will be precedent-setting.

As I pointed out in an earlier post (see here), the establishment on West Front Street just west of Clinton Avenue has been a source of trouble for years -- as it also was when the license was held at a location on Arlington Avenue and Randolph Road.

City Council decided this year, because of the issues raised by the Police Division and the large number of service calls to the establishment, to sit in a special meeting as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and conduct a hearing into the licensee's conduct of business.

At that hearing, the Council members present (Council President Rivers and Councilors Mapp, Reid and Williams), heard sworn statements from police officers relating to --
  • Sale of alcohol to an underage person by the owner;

  • Sale of drugs on the premises by the owner's daughter;

  • The owner's daughter found on the premises after being barred by court order; and

  • Consumption of alcoholic beverages by the owner while working.
These were in addition to a large number of calls for service because of fights and other disturbances at the store or on its property.

The recommendation of the Police Division was to not renew the license for the 2013-14 term.

In my post, I noted that the owner, Vadrajan Naicken, appeared without counsel at the hearing. When asked several times if he wished to speak on his own behalf, he declined the opportunity. This seemed odd.

But nothing could be more surprising than to hear four Councilors (Brown, Greaves, Reid and Council President Rivers) vote AGAINST bringing the resolution of denial forward from last week's agenda-setting session to tonight's business meeting for a vote.

As Corporation Counsel Minchello pointed out, refusing to bring the resolution of denial to a vote was tantamount to allowing the license to be renewed.

After Councilors Williams and Mapp objected, Williams reiterated the testimony of the police officers. Councilor Mapp said that 'given the evidence and the compelling case the police presented, telling the police: We don't care how hard you work, we are going to look the other way, is not acceptable. Now is the time to act.'

Councilor Brown, to her credit, at this point raised her hand and said that since she hadn't been present at the hearing and hadn't had a chance to read the findings, but that based on Director Hellwig's findings she wished to change her vote.

The change on her part meant that the item was moved forward to tonight's agenda.

It seems to me a fair question to ask why Mr. Naicken seemed so smug at the hearing. Was it because he believed the 'fix' was in?

Council President Rivers spoke with passion last Monday about 'not taking away his (Naicken's) right to earn a living'. That might be arguable on a first offence, but this licensee has been in trouble year in and year out.

Councilor Reid has been just as vociferous as anyone over problems with liquor licensees at renewal time, yet he also was willing to overlook the violations at Naicken's establishment.

What is going on here? Was a deal cut?

We shall see tonight.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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olddoc said...

To Rev> Brown's "credit , she raised her hand--and changed her vote". To her discredit she should never had voted on a resolution she knew nothing about as she stated.

Bob said...

I think Reed needs to have these people open a liquor store next to his home if he feels this strongly. I wonder what he's getting out of letting these miscreants keep flaunting the law and endangering the citizens of our community. I pass that place on my way to Dunellen often and there are always seedy types and teens hanging about. Let's be done with them and protect our citizens from these types of crooked business people. I think its time we replace Reed on the Council. Maybe Bridget needs to go too if shes so wishy-washy on the subject.

Anonymous said...

My understanding that this was a redevelopment site many years back under a past administration -- I think during the same time period as the townhouse development on Randolph Road.

Jeff said...

Lets hope the fix is broken and the Council is able to do the right thing and not only remove his liquor license, but shut the place down completely. They have had nothing but trouble with this place. It needs to be removed from the community. That corner is ghetto with it there. It needs to go. Let people buy their drugs somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Waste of time It will be renewed