Seaside Heights’ bar scene will likely always be around, but it won’t get any bigger – at least on the boardwalk – should a revised zoning ordinance pass muster with the borough council.
The governing body at a meeting Wednesday night decided to table an ordinance creating a new zone (known as the Resort Recreational ‘B’ Zone) which would cover the area of the boardwalk between Sheridan Avenue and the northern end of the boardwalk. The proposal, which was introduced earlier this month but did not receive a vote Wednesday, would have fully prohibited establishments from selling alcohol in the zone. The council decided to revise their plan after hearing from members of the town’s business community, said Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz.
“It simply stated that no alcohol would be allowed in the new zone,” said Vaz. “But we heard some comments from some of the business people there, and we’re going to approach it differently.”
Under the original proposal, EJ’s Tap House would be the northernmost bar on the boardwalk. There are no pre-existing bars in the area that would make up the new zone. Now, the council is planning to meet with the Business Improvement District and other business owners to get their input and develop a new set of criteria. Vaz said the borough council wants to see an ordinance developed that would only allow alcohol to be served at legitimate restaurants located in the zone.
The criteria will determine the meaning of “restaurant,” which is often the sticking point in such zoning ordinances.
“We may allow alcohol in a restaurant, as a conditional use, but the restaurant will have to meet criteria – it has to be a restaurant and not a nightclub,” said Vaz.
Opening a business that includes a conditional use requires planning board approval instead of a simple building permit, which would provide officials with an extra layer of review. But Vaz said the criteria should be codified in the zoning ordinance so business owners would not be able to – for example – sell hamburgers during the day, declare itself a restaurant, then operate as a nightclub later.
“When we say ‘restaurant,’ it’s a restaurant where I’d take my wife for a nice dinner,” said Vaz.
Besides the limitation on alcohol sales, the Resort Recreational ‘B’ zone would allow the same uses as the general Resort Recreational Zone, which currently stretches the entire length of the boardwalk.
In recent years, several residential condominium developments have been built along the northern boardwalk area, and the borough is expecting to build a museum for its historic carousel in the same area. Restricting bars and nightclubs in the area could help spur investment and maintain the character that has been developing over the past several years, officials say.
Since the initially-proposed ordinance was not tabled to a date certain, it is dead pursuant to state law. The council expects to introduce a revised ordinance in the fall.