Jersey City Paves the Way for a Restaurant Row in Bergen-Lafayette

bergen lafayette restaurant overlay zone
via Jersey City

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 However, these days, it is woefully out of date and only hurts areas that want to grow and expand.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To see why this outdated statute is counter productive today, here’s a map of what 750 feet would be from Grove Street Path Station.

grove street map jersey city
via Google

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.

grand street lot
via Google

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.

brummers ice cream jersey city
Brummer’s Ice Cream

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.


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  1. Excellent!

    The only way to improve a decaying neighborhood is through gentrification.

    The only challenge is to control the gentrification so the good, existing folks of the neighborhood who want to be part of progress and not part of the decay also have an opportunity to gain from the neighborhood’s growth.

    • Thank you Jon! Because it has become such a loaded word, I use “revitalization” now. To many people, all over the country, “gentrification” has equaled kicking out the lower earners and Disney-fying the area. There’s some truth to both sides. But I absolutely agree that it needs to go the right way. At some of the ROZ meetings, an elderly gentleman was against this as it “would turn us into Hoboken!” Now that’s a bit of a stretch, but I can see where his emotions were. A =/= Z There are going to be many steps along this route and it’s important that we have as many public forums as possible so everyone can educate themselves and have their say.

  2. Your characterization of the Grove Street area pre-“gentrification” is a bit exaggerated. While it was poor and latte-free it was not “drug and crime ridden.” Yes, it was not fancy but people sometimes want to give themselves credit for saving a patient they insist had terminal cancer when all it really had was a bad cold. (I do enjoy your blog, tho.)

    • Thanks for the comment David and thanks for reading! My original quote, pre-editing was “heroin addicts sleeping on the street.” Back in 2003 I used to date a girl that lived in the Dixon Mills complex on Columbus. When I would get out of the PATH, especially at night, there used to be a lot of users camped out around the area. While it wasn’t “ridden”, one had to be a little wary, especially walking down Columbus, where one of my friends was mugged. I wasn’t trying to demonize the area, but it had its issues and has come a long way!

      • Drug and crime ridden sounds pretty accurate to me. Getting mugged is a crime. “Users” can be on many more substances besides heroin. And that’s only looking back to 2003, let’s not forget what it looked like in the 1980s and 90s.

  3. The liquor license law is wacked, I think this is exactly what the area needs. The fact that Café Sole can’t open up a bar because a place close by has a liquor license is ridiculous. Such a great space with nice rooftop with NYC views! Just one of many locations. I can’t imagine the city not allowing this because it’s completely against supporting small businesses and Entrepreneurship. Only way to turn Junkie-tion back to the Junction it was supposed to be.

  4. Just to be clear it took much longer than 10 yrs for Downtown to “revitalize.” I moved to the Van Vorst Park area in 1982 with first wave of NYC transplants. By my calculations, it has taken 30 yrs. I moved away in 2000 when it seemed to be “over-gentrified” to me. Those who are interested in maintaining mixed communities need to support affordable housing in all JC neighborhoods.

    • That’s comparing apples and oranges as far as comparing downtown JC to Bergen Lafayette revitalization or JC in general. I bought a place in Hoboken back in 2008 and downtown JC was still an after thought. Yes the process may have started 30 years ago but was delayed for numerous reason including the financial crisis in 2007 and you didn’t really see it accelerate to the point it is now until 5-10 yrs ago.

      1980s NYC was still a dump and forget about Brooklyn. What’s happening now is a combination of booming housing market with low interest rates combined with ridiculous prices in all the boroughs (maybe excluding Staten Island). Brooklyn is completely tapped out, you can get a brownstone in Bed Stuy for 2 million! As is Queens. Even Bronx, I mean brownstones in South Bronx are going for over 1 million. So naturally you are seeing more interest in JC since it’s a much shorter commute with just as beautiful homes and city life. Without Newark Ave being able to open all those eateries and bars, there definitely wouldn’t be as much interest. Which is what Bergen Lafayette now needs to help it develop.

      So I think just blankly saying it took 30 yrs for downtown to revitalize is ignoring a lot of facts and reasons in between. Or to put it another way, if the real estate and financial markets were in the same place they are now back in the 1980s, I don’t think it would take 30 yrs.

  5. I’m 57 and we moved to Hoboken when I was 12 years old and moved out at the age of 15. What I remember most about downtown JC was all the people looking out the windows. This was very odd for me. People just sitting their next to the window looking out. very odd. does any one else remember that? or was that one of those memories as a child that never happend?


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