Kenilworth bar hit with restrictions after neighbors air complaints

Photo by Brian Trusdell
TONE IT DOWN — The Gavelstone Bar & Grill on South Michigan Avenue in Kenilworth has had restrictions imposed after neighbors complained of patron behavior.

KENILWORTH, NJ — A local bar that agreed to pay a fine to state officials earlier this year has been hit with new restrictions by municipal authorities after neighbors lodged numerous complaints of loud, boisterous and allegedly illegal late-night behavior by patrons.

Effective Oct. 15, the Gavelstone Bar and Grill on South Michigan Avenue, located in the shadow of the Garden State Parkway overpass, has been ordered not to play music after 12:30 a.m.; to hire an outside security guard for the hours between 10 p.m. and closing; and to police the area every morning to ensure that the surrounding neighborhood is clean.

While the bar originally faced a 20- to 30-day suspension of its license, the Kenilworth Borough Council agreed to the lighter penalties after 15 residents testified at a special meeting Wednesday, Sept. 26.

In March, the establishment faced a 74-day suspension for violations of Alcoholic Beverage Control regulations, based on a copy of the report obtained by LocalSource. The establishment ended up paying a fine to the ABC.

Multiple calls to the Gavelstone’s attorney, Clarence Bauknight, were not returned.
For nearly three hours at the Sept. 26 meeting, residents made allegations about noise, debris, drug use and public sex associated with the bar.
Before the testimony from residents was heard at the meeting, multiple police reports were discussed and fire Chief Lou Giordino brought up an incident in which he received an anonymous phone call on Feb. 23, stating that the bar was not in compliance with fire safety codes.

“The call said that the establishment was covering their smoke detectors with plastic bags so they could smoke inside,” Giordino said.
When he arrived, employees were removing the bags and the Gavelstone Bar was left with a warning.

Kamila Santos, who lives four houses away from the bar on the corner of Fairfield and Faitoute avenues, said the patrons leaving the bar were a major concern for her.
“It’s the screaming, cursing and sticking out the finger to the public when we ask them to take it down a notch,” Santos stated, recalling when a patron showed their middle finger in front of her 10-year-old child.

“That’s the thing that’s most concerning,” she said. “There are about 13 grammar-aged children that live around the bar.”
Santos, who has lived on Fairfield Avenue for nine years, said that another bar stood in the same location prior to the Gavelstone but she didn’t have any complaints about that one.

Multiple residents had noise complaints regarding music coming from the bar itself and also by patrons as they leave the establishment. They said the noise mainly occurs after midnight.

Gloria Sequeira, who lives right next to the bar on Fairfield Avenue, said she has concerns about bar patrons using drugs.
“I’ve been outside with my kids and I have seen people leaving the bar and smoking weed … right in front of my kids,” she said.
Mario Rossi, who lives two houses down from the establishment on Fairfield Avenue, said he has the same concerns regarding drug use, but also was aghast at other behavior.

“My next-door neighbor, who is a single mother with two seven-year-old daughters, told me about an incident that happened to her. She lives two houses down from the bar and her daughters looked out the window into a car on the street and saw people having sex,” he said.

“I would also like to mention that I’m a resident of Fairfield Avenue from 1979, and we’ve never had any quality-of-life issues until the Gavelstone establishment,” Rossi told the council.

Other statements by residents included complaints regarding parking on the one-way street and on parts of the street that have a yellow-painted curb, finding condoms and other garbage on their lawns, and fights taking place outside of the establishment in the surrounding area.
“I care about two groups of people getting along the best that they can,” Mayor Anthony Deluca said at the meeting. “This is nothing personal. I have to respond to my people. It’s their lives that are impeded.”

Bar owner Jessica Quintana responded by telling council she was more than willing to address the concerns.
“This is not easy for you and this is not easy for me. I’m trying to run a business and I’m trying to be a good neighbor,” Quintana said. “I’m willing to do whatever you need me to do so that you’re happy and I can keep running my business.”