Hopewell Borough officials set public hearing to authorize alcohol to be served at train station

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An amended ordinance about allowing limited consumption of alcoholic beverages at the Hopewell Borough Train Station was introduced by the Hopewell Borough Council.

A public hearing on the ordinance amendment is scheduled for Feb. 6.

Residents may comment on the proposed ordinance at that time. The council members may adopt the ordinance following the public hearing.

The council members introduced the ordinance at a meeting on Jan. 2.

The ordinance centers around a proposed amendment to a borough ordinance that currently prohibits any consumption of alcohol at the train station in town. The amendment would allow for certain alcohol beverages such as beer and/or wine to be served at train station events by social permit holders.

According to officials, an individual or organization desiring to reserve a borough facility for an assembly, meeting or private event must first obtain a permit from the borough clerk.

On a motion to introduce the amended ordinance and set the date for the public hearing, Council President C. Schuyler Morehouse, Councilman Chris Fossel, Councilman Ryan Kennedy, Councilwoman Samara McAuliffe, and Councilwoman Debra Stuler voted “yes.”

Councilman David Mackie was the sole dissenting vote on the proposed measure.

“There were substantive policy issues that were not fully addressed in the version of the ordinance that was introduced, such that it will probably require reintroduction once those issues are resolved,” Mackie said. “The ordinance did not specifically address the question of whether non-profit organizations, or possibly other entities, would be permitted to serve wine and beer at outdoor events under the framework of a Social Affair Permit or a similar mechanism or, if so, what limitations would be placed on the size and frequency of such gatherings.”

He added if the current ordinance is modified to include this type of event, his understanding is that such changes would be considered “substantive” and would require the ordinance to be reintroduced.

“My position is that we should have fully addressed such outstanding questions prior to introduction. I see no reason to rush the passage of the proposed ordinance. This is not an urgent matter, but rather an ongoing policy discussion,” Mackie said. I am not yet persuaded that the potential safety risks posed by serving alcohol at this particular location are outweighed by the goal of maximizing public use of this great community resource.”

Mayor Paul Anzano said that the borough had received a few requests for people to be able to serve beer, wine and malt beverages, which are the only thing permitted under the law to be served in that kind of setting.

“Not a licensee, but basically a private person. We are limited to what beverages are available. This is not my train station,” Anzano said. “This is not the council’s train station. This is the taxpayers train station.”

The borough has had a prohibition on alcohol being served at the train station in regards to social permit holders.

“Right now, we have an absolute prohibition and that is fine, but we have a minimal risk there. By going to a limited ability to serve, we would require the individual to have their insurance policy to have the event covered under their personal or homeowner’s policy,” he added.

Borough officials said that the individuals would also have to consent to enforcing the rules that the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control currently requires of social permit holders.

They have to commit to not serving underage people, intoxicated individuals, not leave the premises with alcohol and generally do the best they can to enforce those rules, according to officials.

“I remain open to the possibility of permitting alcohol use at the property if sufficient measures are in place to mitigate potential safety concerns,” Mackie said. “I look forward to further discussion of this policy question and will maintain an open mind.”