A three-judge appellate panel upheld the ruling of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control overturning restrictions imposed on Morristown bars owned by former Essex County Freeholder James Cavanaugh.
A suit Cavanaugh filed against Morristown Mayor Timothy Dougherty in April, Cavanaugh claimed the mayor retaliated against a local restaurateur by imposing restrictions on liquor licenses not found in the town’s other eateries.
The suit, claimed Dougherty and Morristown Councilman Stefan Armington retaliated against him.
Cavanaugh alleged Dougherty pushed for the restrictions, which would cut off alcohol sales at the former freeholder’s taverns at 11 p.m. or 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, because Cavanaugh declined the mayor’s offer to invest in the bars.
He claimed Armington held a grudge against him over an unrelated matter.
Under local law, bars in Morristown are generally free to serve alcohol until 2 a.m.
Municipal Clerk Kevin Harris told the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Office of Administrative Law that no other bars in the town faced the same restrictions, and Police Chief Peter Demitz could explain why the limitations were imposed or justify the specific times chosen.
The appellate panel found little cause to contest the OAL’s rulings and said the town’s arguments in the case had little merit.
Among Morristown’s arguments in the appeal were that the administrative law judge that handled the initial case by allowing a former ABC director to testify.
The court deemed the judge should not have allowed the director to testify but ruled that it was a harmless error that did not impact the decision in the case, as neither decision in the case cited his testimony.
David Wildstein contributed to this report.Appeal - Appellate Division Decision (02152146)