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 , 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 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 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."

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

John A. Unglert June 21, 2012 at 10:39 AM
As a Wyckoff resident I stand with the Township Committee. At the meeting this was discussed and acted on there was very careful consideration of each license renewal and each was voted on after a discussion. I find it difficult to understand how a business owner would not be aware of problems at his own business - "Felixbrod told Wyckoff Patch that he was unaware of the incidents highlighted in Fox's letter." From what Chief Fox wrote at least two of the incidents seems to have required Wyckoff Police to enter the business or at the minimum be right outside the door. If this amount of inattention to business problems is an indication of the supervision of the business is lacking and is not conducive (sp) to extending the closing hour. Disappointing, maybe, however the Committee does what they believe is best for Wyckoff. I doubt, very much that Chief Fox would just create incidents. Chief Fox just doesn;t do that, thus I would have complete confidence in his report.
Howard Felixbrod June 21, 2012 at 01:01 PM
I too doubt that chief Fox would create incidents! I was unaware of 2 of them and thats because my managers did not report them to me! As to your comment about the way I run my business I am sure my wonderful guests would agree that they are treated better here than anywhere else!! A couple of corrections and comments: I originally wrote to all committeemen and not just Mr Rooney! Having "significantly more problems" is a misleading statement! Thankfully we are the only place in the 20 years that I have lived here to be this busy! I have tried to give people what they want and it seems I have hit the mark! So What are we comparing the number of problems to?? I have the deepest respect for what the police do in this town and for the dangers of drunk driving! My sister was killed by a drunk driver in 1984 when she was just 29 so I take it very seriously! We do everything we can for our guests to have responsibly but there are always bad apples in every group! I also respect and I am grateful for the sometimes thankless job our township committee does! They are dedicated people who only have the best intentions at heart! I hope to continue serving my community with both my business and my time with the Chamber of Commerce and as a trustee on WEF! Thanks for listening Howie Felixbrod
LC June 21, 2012 at 02:32 PM
I agree that 1 p.m. is a reasonable time to close a restaurant/bar in Wyckoff. I've only been to the Blue Moon for dinner and actually had no idea it was even open that late. There have been way too many incidences of drunk driving and criminal behavior in Wyckoff lately, so we don't need to invite any more. This is what contributes to these incidences, NOT a new supermarket to replace one that was already there! I'm happy to see that the township officials, including the police, are using good judgement in this case.
Gary Rabinowitz June 21, 2012 at 02:57 PM
While I enjoy Blue Moon (esp. its margaritas & salsa....), kudos to the TC for 1 am closing hours. As for the "devalues license" comment by Mr Felixbrod, that's an inherent risk of buying a liquor license! Not to mind read, but it sounds like you might be posturing for some relief or compensation by Wyckoff taxpayers (as my teen daughter would comment, "just saying"). As for Mr Felixbrod running for office, go for it! Cheers GXR
Howard Felixbrod June 21, 2012 at 02:57 PM
One more comment! Although closing later would benefit my business financially it wouldn't be much! I was mostly reacting to the negative comments of my guests when they are asked to leave before they are ready. We will certainly abide by the township ordinances and will continue to be a supportive and responsible part of the great Wyckoff community!
LC June 21, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Those margaritas and salsa are the best! Now I want to go there for dinner tonight!
Howard Felixbrod June 21, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Thank you Mr. Raboniwitz for your kind words about our Margaritas and Salsa. I am in no way posturing for relief and would never ask the taxpayers for anything especially since I am one of those Wyckoff Taxpayers. Would you want a town ordinance to go into effect that affected the value of your home just after you bought it? Just Saying :) That's it from me...Have a great summer everyone and thanks for your patronage and support!!!
LC June 21, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Mr Felixbrod...thank you for a great restaurant where you can get a great alcoholic beverage. Keep up the good work and enjoy your summer.
mr June 21, 2012 at 07:14 PM
I do believe closing time should be 1 am. I have never been to the restaurant, but after reading Mr. Felixbrod's comments my family and I will definitely patronize this establishment. Good luck Mr. Felixbrod and now you have new customers!!!!!
LC June 21, 2012 at 07:24 PM
John Briggs June 21, 2012 at 08:19 PM
As long as Blue Moon continues to work with the police department in attempting to curtail drunk drivers, I see no reason to close up at 1am. These types of incidents will happen regardless of the closing time for Blue Moon.
Tom Kristiansen June 21, 2012 at 10:19 PM
As a community we must show compassion for the residents on Franklin/Godwin/Greenwood aves and do what we can to protect the last bit of peace and quiet they receive in the early morning hours. The daily traffic jams/noises that these residents have to put up with are quite enough wouldn't you agree? I agree with the TC on this issue and recommend that they begin to seriously think of ways to mitigate the traffic mess we deal with every day now. I wish to add that riding a bicycle thru town has become quite a challenge even for the experienced rider, nearly unsafe. TC, bike lanes throughout the town center would ease traffic burden and make the town healthier and safer for all.
Ron Pepper June 22, 2012 at 11:31 PM
I am one of the patrons who would enjoy that extra hour. Blue Moon has some great bands that are cut off and have to leave at 12:30AM in the middle of a good time.I think the township should consider a last call at 12:45Am, but allow Blue Moon to be open and enjoy the great bands till 2AM. I don't need to drink to have a good time. This would also allow any patrons that may have had too much some time to sober up. Just thinking out loud. Thanks Howie for bringing something fun and different to Wyckoff. Hope this makes a difference. Ron Pepper
LC June 25, 2012 at 01:14 PM
That's a viable alternate solution, Ron. I can see that working.
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