BRADLEY BEACH — The first of three roundtable discussions with borough businesses saw Mayor Larry Fox address restaurateurs on the impact on the pandemic as well as how the borough hopes to improve the business climate this summer.
The meeting focused on a wide-ranging conversation on parking, improvements on Main Street, business grants and proposed changes to the state’s liquor license laws
“Bradley Beach is known for its great choices for excellent dining, and we would like that reputation to endure and to grow,” Mayor Fox said to restaurant owners in a Zoom meeting on Tuesday.
Mayor Fox held a Zoom meeting with restaurateurs on the effect the pandemic has had on the borough’s food scene and how the borough plans to build back better.
Presenting his 10 goals and strategies – Bradley Beach character preservation, Main Street excellence, beachfront and oceanfront development, infrastructure enhancements, powerful communications, controlling taxes, civic engagement, high-impact governance, high-quality municipality services and financial health – the mayor said that his plan surrounding Main Street was “first among equals.”
Reading from a report developed with the borough’s Main Street task force, restaurant owners were presented with proposed changes to make the borough’s main thoroughfare pedestrian-friendly.
Talks included improving the four-way intersection at Main Street and Fifth Avenue, including pedestrian striping, extending curbs and proposed change to Second and Third avenues between Main Street and Hammond Avenue, changing the roads to one way and adding angular parking to both roadways. There would also be a bike lane on Second and Third avenues as well as on Hammond.
Speaking of the parking addition, the mayor said there may be a change this summer to balance out parking spaces lost due to expanded outdoor dining areas.
Also on parking, the mayor voiced his support for moving the borough’s Department of Public Works yard on Evergreen Avenue to the northern lot on Main Street. The move would allow the borough to use the Evergreen property as a parking lot, the mayor said.
When it comes to streetscape improvement, the borough has applied for a $1.4 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation. In a rendering of a section of Main Street from McCabe to Fourth Avenue, the mayor said the funds could help purchase new plantings, seating for bus stops, bike stalls and bike lanes on the north and south lane of Main Street.
Also discussed at the meeting was the hiring of a planning and grants manager, who would be the point person on driving grant funding to Bradley Beach.
During the meeting, principals of Cinemalabs, a group that plans to buy the now-closed ShowRoom Cinema, said they were still in talks on buying the property from its current owners.
Arianna Bocco, one of the principals who lives in Bradley Beach, said that the group is still working with an investor to purchase the theater. The group plans to turn the cinema into a three-screen theater that would open in early fall, but renovations would have to be done. She said the group would also like to purchase a liquor license for the property.
“We feel very passionate that that building stays a theater, so we are doing everything that we can to get that deal closed up, and we are hoping that is very shortly,” she said.
State Senator Vin Gopal also attended the meeting, telling business owners he is working to sponsor a bill to change the “archaic” nature of New Jersey’s liquor license laws, which limits the amounts of liquor establishments that a municipality can have.
Business owners at the round table discussion had the opportunity to give their feedback on the state of downtown Bradley Beach.
Mahonrry Hidalgo, owner of Luna Verde, said that in the short term the borough has an issue with street parking on Main Street as some drivers are parking in the middle of spaces.
“There are so many spaces by big cars or small cars that just park in the middle of a space that could easily have three or four cars,” he said, adding that parking lines to delineate spaces could help the problem.
Mayor Fox responded by saying that that is something the borough is planning on moving on “very quickly.”
Simone Hazel, owner of the Showroom Modern General, said that the borough should re-examine its 15-minute parking spaces and consider extending that temporary parking time.
Anthony Pagano, of Uva Ristorante on Main Street, said the borough should look at incentivizing redevelopment on Main Street.
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