[Daily Record] (July 15, 1997)
Pal Park liquor law put on hold
Ruling favors karaoke clubs
By Peter J. Sampson
Lawyers for three karaoke studios left federal court Monday claiming an initial victory in their attempts to block Palisades Park from enforcing ordinances that they contend discriminate against Koreans.
U.S. District Judge Alfred M. Wolin in Newark issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of one measure that subjected the Korean-American owners to prosecution and fines if patrons consumed beer or liquor in their music studios.
The judge said the section of the ordinance that applies to “commercial premises of any kind which are open to the public” appears to be unconstitutionally vague, and he blocked its enforcement pending trial.
The order does not prevent the borough from prosecuting pending cases, borough agreed to repeal the dual-language sign ordinance enacted by the prior administration.
Borough Attorney Joseph R. Mariniello Sr. told Wolin that the council would take action tonight to rescind the ordinance, which had not been enforced since Sandy Farber became Mayor in November although about a half-dozen summonses had been issued before then.
In a nod for the borough, the judge found no immediate reason to block another controversial ordinance that requires most retail businesses to close by 9 p.m.
Although the karaoke clubs would fall under the curfew, Farber’s administration had informally allowed them to remain open until 3 a.m., the hour all taverns must close.
“I think both sides now have to sit down and come to a basic understanding in view of the court findings,” Farber said.
Last month, the three late-night karaoke clubs, Music City, New Jersey Music Studio, and Dolce Music Studio, all of which are on Broad Avenue, sued the town, contending that officials are carrying out a campaign of discrimination against businesses owned by Korean-Americans.
Their suit challenged laws in Palisades Park that bar businesses from staying open around the clock, require the clubs to keep customers from brining in alcohol, and mandate that businesses with foreign-language signs display similar wording in English
KARAOKE : Judge suspends Pal Park law
Mariniello noted that in enjoining the ordinance prohibiting drinking in non-licensed establishments, the judge specifically found that it “had nothing to do with discrimination or racial overtones.”
Mariniello said the ordinances were enacted for the benefit of the entire community and “were not aimed at any specific group of people. And I think the judge confirmed that.”
Farber added, “Whenever something goes against the grain, the word ‘discrimination’ always crops up. We are not discriminatory toward them or anybody else in town. We try to treat everyone fairly. But on the other hand, we will not be taken advantage of.”
Mariniello said the town also came away with a victory.
“Clearly, we have a right to enforce closing hours so residents are protected from rowdiness and noise… and we still have the right to prosecute” restaurants and other businesses serving food if they sell alcohol without a license, he said.
Michael Kimm, who represented the businesses with Christine Bae, said his clients were pleased with the outcome of Monday’s hearing.
“The town came in conceding liability on the sign ordinance and the judge found the [alcohol prohibition] to be unconstitutionally vague and overboard,” Kimm said.
“We always maintained that businesses like our clients’ should not be compelled to be police officers… and we’re delighted that the court agreed with our basic premise,” he said.