The Madison Borough Council, sitting as the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission on Monday evening approved by a vote of 5-0 a one-year renewal of the Prospect Tavern’s liquor license at its meeting at Hartley Dodge Memorial.
The vote, with councilman Bob Conley absent, came after Stop & Shop, which is locked in a legal dispute over parking with the Tavern, again raised a number of objections to the renewal.
The supermarket operator has objected to the transfer or renewal of the pub’s license going back to 2009.
Appeals of the Tavern’s license transfer from its previous owner and other legal challenges by Stop & Shop remain open before both an administrative law judge and Superior Court. But attorney Rob Simon of Herald Law, representing the Tavern, said he is hopeful they will all be resolved within 45 days.
For now, Simon, in speaking before the board, called Stop & Shop’s allegations of Tavern sales of alcohol to underage patrons, and gambling and fighting on its property “malicious” and “frivolous,” a “red herring” while it pursues litigation over parking spaces.
Madison police reports obtained by Stop & Shop in an open-records request showed no Tavern employees—or any other establishment in the borough—served alcohol to underage patrons in 2010, Simon said. “The Tavern has a policy against serving underage patrons,” he said.
The attorney also disputed the supermarket’s allegations in previous filings that the Tavern is improperly serving alcohol on its outdoor deck, saying “It’s a title issue, not an ABC issue.”
Simon did note two incidents, including a fight on Tavern property when it was closed, and a mishap involving a wheelchair-bound patron who fell over a curb.
Simon termed “ridiculous” allegations by Stop & Shop of gambling at the Tavern, and that it served alcohol on Sunday before noon in violation of borough code. Stop & Shop made its most recent allegations in a June 8 filing.
Attorney Jennifer Smith of Gibbons PC, representing Stop & Shop, told the board that despite the case’s “long, tortured history,” the retailer’s allegations were not malicious or frivolous. “No final determination has been made on our claims before an administrative law judge or Superior Court. Until there is, we have to continue to object to this renewal.”
Smith asserted that the Tavern’s outdoor deck is constructed on Stop & Shop property, without Stop & Shop’s consent, and that is a violation of state law for alcohol to be served there with the market’s consent.
The property issue came under some discussion, with borough administrator Ray Codey noting that no representatives of Stop & Shop appeared before the Planning Board when it originally approved the proposal for the outdoor deck.
“Our objections are not a red herring,” Smith said. “We are asking the Board to turn down renewal.”
Codey asked Smith how allegations of improper serving, gambling, and fighting is connected to the parking dispute.
“It’s about the operation of the Prospect Tavern, the whole thing,” she said.
“What drives me crazy are allegations that are made but never proven,” said Council member Don Links. “Like with the parking. You’re asking us effectively to put that establishment out of business.”
Said Simon, “A parking dispute has nothing to do with the serving of alcohol at this establishment.”