Council Meeting Celebrates Excellence and Addresses Violations by Local Business
Update 12:15 pm: The Clifton Times just learned that the vigil approved for tomorrow, November 10, has been canceled by the organizers.
When the City Council met on Wednesday, November 8, their first order of business was to revisit an application for an entertainment license. Made in Miami, the lounge that caused some controversy when their application for an entertainment license revealed that they were operating in violation of city ordinances, withdrew their application. Without that license, they are not permitted to have live entertainment, including a DJ. Despite this, their website still advertises live entertainment and hookah, which is also not permitted.
Councilwoman Mary Sadrakula reminded the Council of a list of known violations, including hookah smoking, using public streets for valet parking, and live entertainment. She asked that the City Manager send the police and Health Department to the premises and fine them every day that they are found to be in violation until they “get the message.” City Manager Nick Villano said that it would be very difficult to do this regularly, given staffing issues, but Sadrakula stressed the necessity of holding them accountable and not allowing them to get away with breaking the rules. City Attorney Matt Priore agreed with her, saying that this is the only legal option for the city, to keep issuing summonses every time they are found to be in violation.
Agave Cantina, a new restaurant on Piaget, requested permission to have live entertainment for a Grand Opening event on Saturday, November 11. It became clear during discussion that they, like Made in Miami, have been operating thus far without the required entertainment license. Councilman Tony Latona suggested that they be allowed to have music at their Grand Opening despite this because they came from another township where a separate license for music was not required and they were initially unaware of the requirement. Sadrakula conceded that it would be permissible to allow them a one-day exception but insisted that they come before the Council to apply for the needed license before continuing with live entertainment. Latona seconded that motion, acknowledging that they would have time to come before Council to settle the application for the needed license before another event planned for November 30.
Action item A-31 was a request for authorization for a Palestinian event on Friday, November 10 at Jubilee Park. Latona motioned for discussion only but there was no second and the meeting continued without addressing the request. No authorization was granted. It’s important to note at this point that three members of Council were missing - Rosemary Pino and Lauren Murphy were absent and Joe Kolodziej was attending remotely but connectivity issues during this part of the work session prevented him from participating.
Kolodziej was present in person for the regular session and before Council broke to return to Executive Session, he asked about the status of this request and said that he would make a motion on that application “To avoid being sued on First Amendment rights.” During the Executive Session, where the public is not privy to the conversation, the permit was granted.
The event, a vigil organized by Wassim Kanaan and the NJ Chapter of American Muslims for Palestine, is scheduled for Friday, November 10 from 2 pm to 4 pm in Jubilee Park, near the intersection of Allwood Road and Clifton Avenue. The event is limited to a maximum of 100 participants and the organizers are required to have five police officers present to assist with traffic control and security.
A draft of an anti-nepotism ordinance was on the agenda for discussion but, at the request of Councilwoman Rosemary Pino, who was not present, it was carried to the next meeting so that she could weigh in. AllVoices says, “An anti-nepotism policy is a set of rules and guidelines put in place by an organization to prevent the hiring or promotion of family members or close relatives of current employees or management.”
There was some happy news to share during the regular session, with the Beautification Committee awarding its annual certificates to two local businesses in recognition of their aesthetic appeal - The Barrow House on Van Houten Avenue and Roma Coffee Bar and Pizzeria on Clifton Avenue. Both establishments have gone to some lengths to make their exteriors inviting and attractive, helping to beautify the areas in which they operate.
Mayor Ray Grabowski proudly announced that the Clifton Health Department has become only the sixth one in the state to receive national public health accreditation. “It took years and years of hard work,” Grabowski said, citing the many rigorous qualifications that needed to be satisfied in order to be granted this honor. “We have one of the best health departments in the state,” he said.
A Facebook post from the Health Department reads, “Accreditation is a rigorous process that shows our commitment to quality and performance improvement, collaboration, and public health practice. We are proud to have our work and programs nationally recognized and remain committed to the health and well-being of our community. The Clifton Health Department is the 6th local health department in the state of New Jersey and the 1st in Passaic County to receive this esteemed status.” Later in the meeting, Villano read a letter from Health Officer John Biegel into record. “We embarked on this to hold our staff to the highest possible standards for public health practices,” Biegel wrote.
The Council passed a resolution naming November 25th as Small Business Saturday.