A restaurant overlay zone has been proposed for Bergen-Lafayette that hopes to spur retail development along one of the areas most neglected corridors.
To start, what exactly is a restaurant overlay zone (ROZ) and why do we need one?
There is a currently a New Jersey statute that does prohibits additional liquor licenses within 750 feet of an existing one. Originally, this statute was meant to protect an area from becoming overrun with bars, as well as to stave off competition. However, these days, it is woefully out of date and only hurts areas that want to grow and expand. Most areas see bar and restaurant expansion first, followed by other supportive retail establishments.
To see why this outdated statute is counter productive today, here’s a map of what 750 feet would be from Grove Street Path Station.
That means that Newark Avenue’s Restaurant Row could only have a single place that serves alcohol. Obviously, this isn’t practical.
The first thing the ROZ does is allows other eateries and bars to open up closer than 750 feet. The second thing that it does is allows for properties to be rezoned to commercial from residential and/or industrial.
For Bergen-Lafayette, that would mean that this open lot on Grand Street, instead of having to lease its retail space to a non-drinking establishment, can now choose to lease it to a restaurant, lounge or bar.
The pursuit of this ordinance was initiated by the Berry Hill / Claremont neighborhood association as part of several initiatives to revitalize the retail corridor at Communipaw Junction and bring employment opportunities to the local community. They are also working on a program that unites business owners in the Junction with the community in hopes of bringing a sense of pride and accountability to this long neglected retail corridor.
Several residential developments are coming to our community, however there are very few developments proposed that would bring prosperity back to our main streets. Many areas in Bergen-Lafayette are in many ways bedroom communities because of the lack of local retail businesses.
Bringing the ROZ to Communipaw Junction will encourage those who have considered opening up restaurants in the Junction to think more seriously about doing so. Right now the prices are right for investors and developers to buy and I believe that additional retail businesses will follow. Not only will this encourage more businesses to open up, but it will also encourage vacant property owners to rehabilitate existing retail spaces.
For the most part, people are excited for the prospect of revitalization of the area. Veterans of the neighborhood remember the days when neighborhood favorites like Brummer’s Ice Cream and The Round-Up were neighborhood staples which created a sense of community.
The Grove Street area, which managed to transform from its drug and crime ridden past into a vibrant, clean and profitable area in around 10 years, provides a great template for how to move forward.