No Way to Later Closing Times, Committee Tells Blue Moon Owner
Committeemen, police chief say recent history of incidents at the popular Mexican restaurant is reason enough to put the brakes on Howie Felixbrod's request.
The owner of Blue Moon, a popular Wyckoff bar and restaurant, was again denied a request to extend drinking hours following a letter from the township's chief of police citing a "significant" number of incidents and violations linked to alcohol consumption at the restaurant.
Howie Felixbrod, the owner of Blue Moon, said he wrote a letter to Committeeman Kevin Rooney requesting the township ammend the ordinance that says Wyckoff businesses must close by 1 a.m.
Felixbrod was looking to extend hours at Blue Moon by one hour in an effort to compete with other local restaurants.
But at an unrelated meeting sometime after township officials received his letter, Felixbrod spoke to Wyckoff Mayor Chris DePhillips, who took the air out of any hopes the business owner had for a change to the ordinance.
"I happened to be at a Wyckoff Day meeting with the mayor [Tuesday] and he told me of the letter from the police chief recommending not extending the hours," Felixbrod said. "With that I knew it was a dead issue."
The letter DePhillips brought to the attention of Felixbrod was a strongly worded opinion by Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox.
The letter, dated June 18, encouraged the township to deny Felixbrod's request for the one-hour extension.
"While I fully understand that the owner views increased time for alcohol sales as a financial benefit, considering the recent history at Blue Moon I must view increased alcohol consumption as the potential for increased issues for the police department to contend with," Fox wrote.
In the letter, Fox detailed four alleged incidents of "unruly behavior" at Blue Moon this year:
- Saturday, April 7 - Police responded to Blue Moon for a drunk creating a scene. No charges were filed.
- Saturday, May 5 - Cops responded to Blue Moon following a fight in which one guy pinched a woman's butt and was then punched out by another male. Again, no charges filed.
- Sunday, May 6 - Cops responded when a "verbal altercation" got heated after two customers accused a Blue Moon employee of calling them a derogatory name. No charges.
- Sunday, June 17 - Police stopped a vehicle on suspicion of drunk driving. An investigation found that the male driver had been drinking at Blue Moon. Additionally, the female passenger told cops that the driver had assaulted her at the bar after she accused him of flirting with another woman. The driver was charged with DWI and arrested under the domestic violence act for assault.
"It is a fact that of all licensed liquor establishments in Wyckoff, we are currently having significantly more problems at Blue Moon than any others," Fox wrote.
Felixbrod told Wyckoff Patch that he was unaware of the incidents highlighted in Fox's letter.
"We take our responsibility of controlling over-imbibing very seriously," Felixbrod said. "All my employees have taken part in a class taught by Detective [Joseph] Soto and we are in talks with a company called StearClear that will be available to drive people home in case they have had too much."
Fox also wrote that management at Blue Moon had violated the 1 a.m. closing time at least twice. [His two-page letter is attached to this story.]
Felixbrod, who owns two other Blue Moon restaurants in Bergen County and another in Bronxville, NY, maintains that he was asking for the additional hour of operation to match the closing times in other towns.
In Ridgewood, bars are able to stay open until 2 a.m. normally, and until 3 a.m. on New Year's Eve.
Last year Felixbrod unsuccessfully petitioned the Township Committee for a one-time exception on the typically boozey — and potentially lucrative — holiday.
At a committee meeting Tuesday evening DePhillips, Rooney and other elected officials stood together against Felixbrod's request.
"I oppose any change from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m., especially in light of this latest report from the chief," Rooney said. "We put that ordinance in place not just for bars but for all establishments in the community and I think it's been working well."
Felixbrod balked, however.
"This ordinance was not in effect when I purchased this liquor license but because it is now it devalues the license," he told Wyckoff Patch late Tuesday.
The restaurant's owner contends that the law was put into effect "to try and keep the kids from hanging out, but it did not serve that purpose."
"If you look at the parking lot in Boulder Run at any given time there are kids hanging out doing who knows what, but that has nothing to do with my business," Felixbrod said.
"I am disappointed the township committee does not support me as much as I support the town," he said. "Maybe it's time for me to run for office."
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