Monday, April 20, 2015

Lap Dances Out, Bathing Suits In For Richmond Tavern

Victorian bathing suits

A  liquor license holder who wants to locate at the former Richmond Beer Garden agreed to ditch lap dances and skimpy outfits in order to avoid the label of a "sexually oriented business."

Dancers will wear bathing suits that do not expose breasts or buttocks and will not engage in any touching or simulation of self-gratification or sexual intercourse, or else owner Luis Penaloza will be in violation of a rule barring a "gentlemen's club" from being 1,000 feet or less from a church.

The pledge emerged at a special meeting Monday where the City Council acted as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Penaloza's request must still be reviewed by the state ABC and if approved, it will be up for a vote by the council at the May 11 meeting.

Council President Bridget Rivers urged support for Penaloza, saying he "deserves a chance" to open his business, although in public comment several neighbors complained of noise until 2 a.m., sex in cars, blocked driveways and condoms, broken beer bottles and crack vials littering their property. Since the go-go club closed a few years ago, the neighborhood has been quiet, residents said.

Sgt Nuno Carvalho, who investigated the application for the Plainfield Police Division, also said police calls were down 50 percent since the club closed. Carvalho met with Penaloza last year and described his initial business plan as "less than stellar," in part because Penaloza wanted to convert a DJ booth to a private space for lap dances. Carvalho described "substantial" criminal activity around the club in the past, including a homicide, but in cross-examination Penaloza's attorney noted two homicides this year in the closed club's vicinity, bringing a laugh from Rivers.

Planning Director Bill Nierstedt also testified on the application, saying he reviewed it for a certificate of occupancy as a tavern, which is a permitted use. But he said the only previous certificate of occupancy on file was in 1971, for a retail store. The applicant later produced a document that Inspections did not have, which was a certificate of occupancy for a first floor bar. Still-outstanding issues included parking, the need for site plan review and the fact that the tavern designation did not allow for live entertainment.

Council members asked how the Richmond Beer Garden operated over decades in violation of laws on the books and Nierstedt said there were illegal uses all over town.

"So it appears that your reasoning is that you are interested in applying the law when you find it," Councilwoman Gloria Taylor said. "For us, we have to look not only what is in the books, but what is practice."

City Solicitor David Minchello conducted the hearing and in summation told the governing body, "Make no mistake, the application before you is for a sexually oriented establishment. Don't be confused about what this is."

Alluding to Sgt. Carvalho's testimony on crime, he said, "I ask that you deny this application."

But Penaloza's lawyer, Andrew Ingram, said, "Do not believe this is a sexually oriented business," and insisted his client would have to follow all the rules or be subject to suspensions, fines and revocation of his license.

"He has no choice but to follow the letter of the law," Ingram said. "Dancers need to be fully dressed. He's going to have to follow that."

In public comment, resident Alex Toliver said,  "I don't have no horse in this race. A word has been tossed around here and used negatively. Sex, sex, sex - that's crap."

Toliver said people could see thongs and such at the beach.

"Let's get that sex out of our mind," he said.

Disputing Nierstedt's comment that a vacant lot across the street could not be used for parking and would only hold five cars anyway, Toliver said  he has seen three trailers parked on the lot.

"This is a night club, it's been a night club all these years," he said. "Where are these other licenses at? Who owns these licenses? Then shut them down," he said, alleging "kickbacks."

The other item on the agenda, possible charges and penalties against the Latino Heat Bar & Grill, was decided quickly as a downgrade from an initial 70 days' proposed suspension to an agreement between the city and license holder Mahamatie Beni for a 30-day suspension which will require City Council approval at the May 11 meeting. The offense was not disclosed in the hearing, but when Plaintalker asked Beni, her companion said it was just some people drinking after hours. Minchello said Beni can also appeal the suspension and seek just a monetary penalty.

All liquor licenses must be reviewed for annual renewal by June 30, according to ABC law. Although a state formula limits the number of bars and liquor stores by population, most Plainfield licenses are "grandfathered" and not affected by the rule. See a post on last year's liquor license process here.


Plainfield Cop Arrested

Dear Friday tipster, I have no way of confirming information from the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office, but according to this Courier News story online just now, you are correct.

Somerset County Prosecutor's press release

2010, 2015 Demolitions Compared

I just noticed a table on the city web site that contrasts two North Avenue demolitions, one in 2010 and the recent one in 2015. The table goes point by point over five pages, ending with the question of whether City Council approval is needed for an emergency demolition and the answer, no.

"A Tale of Two Demolitions"

p.s. I see this is part of a post by Mayor Adrian O. Mapp

Get Ready for June 2

It's a little over 40 days until the June primary and it looks like a rough ride.

Locally, political messages are flying in from all angles. Some are merely persuasive, while others are outright lies and distortions. The hapless voter has more of a job this year sorting through the barrage of bullfeathers for honest representations by candidates.

What's at stake? Theoretically, control of the local Democratic Committee is one thing. Being able to count to four on the City Council is probably not something opponents of the current majority can achieve in the near term, as one candidate will only be saving his place if he wins, but could be an incremental  goal for the future..

Between now and the primary, expect a lot of showboating in the budget process and the demolition investigation, as well as posturing on City Council camera by a wide cast of characters with more axes to grind than a league of lumberjacks.

Many Plainfielders will eschew the whole political process on June 2, making every vote cast all the more important. If you believe right now that you know who who'll vote for on June 2, volunteer for the campaign, donate money, talk it up to friends and neighbors. When your sample ballot arrives, take a good look at it for candidates and your polling place.

Political wisdom has it that this primary will not interest voters because there is no major race at the top of the line. Locally, the new opportunities for development make it very relevant for voters to declare who they want in charge. If you don't vote, don't complain after June 2 about how things are going in Plainfield. Your vote counts, especially now.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hillside Avenue Historic District Reorganizes

Here's an update posted by Libby Price on Facebook:

Fabulous kickoff meeting for the Hillside Avenue Historic District! A great turnout and lots of new energy and ideas for our District and the City. Congrats to our 2015 Board...President Peter Price; Vice President Dawn Jenkin; Treasurer Nathan Vaughn; Secretary Quinn Jarrett.

Plaintalker wishes the same for all the historic districts. Some are already operating at a dynamic level and provide positive interest in the city with house tours and other events. Others may need a little "new energy" as Hillside has found.

There is a wealth of information on the city web site about historic preservation, but you have to dig a bit for it.
You have to go to Departments, open Public Works & Urban Development, choose Divisions, then choose Planning on the drop-down menu. All the land use boards (Planning, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Shade Tree Commission and Historic Preservation Commission) are under Planning.

Here's a map of all the historic districts and sites and there are also maps of individual districts. Take a few minutes and look around!


Celebrate Earth Day with Garden Club

Earth Day 2015
April 22
Plainfield Garden Club
(click link for information)

Garden Club, Cricketers Open the Season

The Plainfield Garden Club opened the Shakespeare Garden this week, with weeding and cleanup on Wednesday and Saturday.
On Saturday, club President Mandy Zachariades conferred with staff from Union County Parks & Recreation.

"We get a lot of help from the county," she said.
The Shakespeare Garden contains plants mentioned in The Bard's works. There are other such gardens in many locations, including Central Park, San Francisco and Melbourne, Australia.across the world. The Plainfield Garden Club welcomes visitors especially at the peak of the blooming season in June, and the event on June 6 will also celebrate the club's centennial.
As part of the Union County park system, Cedar Brook Park is open dawn to dusk and the garden may be enjoyed any time during those hours. It is a great place to take visitors who want to learn more about Plainfield's attractions.
Near the garden is another point of interest, a cricket pitch.
Over the playing season, large groups gather to watch the games and cheer on their teams.

On a weekend visit to the park, you might see a game in progress while strolling through the garden.